Prescription blood thinners are better than aspirin for the extended treatment of venous thromboembolism, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session in Washington, DC.
Also published in the New England Journal of Medicine, this study tested the safety and efficacy of aspirin versus a low-dose blood thinner called rivaroxaban in patients with venous thromboembolism.
Venous thromboembolism, often referred to as VTE, is a common condition that affects up to 600,000 Americans each year. It occurs when a blood clot forms within a vein and can cause life-threatening complications. Since patients with a history of venous thromboembolism are at significantly increased risk for future clots, prescription blood-thinners are typically recommended for at least 6–12 months to improve outcomes. However, the next step for treatment after this period is less clear.
To learn more, researchers tested the use of rivaroxaban (brand name: Xarelto) versus aspirin in patients with VTE after completing 6–12 months of initial therapy. A total of 3,396 patients participated in the study, all of which were randomly assigned to 100 mg of aspirin, 10 mg of rivaroxaban, or 20 mg of rivaroxaban daily for up to one year.
During the study period, researchers monitored key outcomes such as blood clots and bleeding, which is the most common complication associated with blood thinner use.
After analysis, researchers found that rivaroxaban was nearly three times as effective at reducing risk for VTE compared to aspirin. It was also just as safe, with similar bleeding rates among patients in both groups.
The take-home message, according to authors, is that the prescription blood thinner, rivaroxaban, is more effective than aspirin at preventing VTE without increasing risk for major bleeding. “Our findings show that it's [a safe option] and appears to be highly protective against potentially life-threatening recurrent VTE,” explains Phil S. Wells, a study author who presented the research at the recent conference. However, authors also note that the average age in this study was 59, which is younger than the typical patient with VTE. As a result, a follow-up study is planned to confirm whether findings are similar in older patients with this common condition.