New Alternatives to Coumadin for Those with Atrial Fibrillation
- Posted on: Jan 31 2014
Coumadin, which has been the most commonly prescribed oral blood thinning agent for years, now has some competition. Also known as warfarin and sold under the brand names Jantoven, Marevan and Lawarin, Coumadin has long been the primary medication option for those suffering from atrial fibrillation (AFib).
Atrial fibrillation, the most common form of arrhythmia, is a condition where the heart’s upper and lower chambers don’t work together as they should. This heart rhythm problem causes the right atrium and left atrium to beat exceedingly fast, which in turn causes one’s heart beat to be much faster than normal.
Atrial fibrillation has been linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart disease. Due to the condition’s irregular rhythm, blood may not be completely emptied into the ventricles, which can cause clots to form in the atrium. If these clots break loose, they can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. Atrial fibrillation has also been tied to high blood pressure, or hypertension.
Since the 1950s, warfarin has been the go-to drug to help thin the blood and lower the risk of blood clot development. But recently, three new medications, rivaroxaban, apixaban and dabigatran, have been approved by the FDA to help keep these risks in check.
Although warfarin has been proven to be effective, it requires frequent blood draws and monitoring in order to make dosage adjustments. Patients on warfarin also have to follow strict dietary restrictions, including limiting their intake of foods that contain vitamin K, such as kale, spinach and brussels sprouts.
The three newer medications, however, do not call for such stringent monitoring and blood work. They also do not come with restrictions on eating otherwise healthy foods. Additionally, studies show that apixaban, rivaroxaban and dabigatran are significantly less likely than warfarin to cause the kind of bleeding that leads to hemorrhagic stroke.
Sold under the brand name Xarelto, Rivaroxaban is a factor Xa inhibitor. Apixaban (brand name Eliquis) is also a factor Xa inhibitor. Dabigatran, which is sold as Pradaxa, is a direct thrombin inhibitor. All three of these inhibitors work to reduce the risk of stroke from atrial fibrillation while requiring less blood test monitoring and therefore making life easier for many patients with AFib. If you suffer from atrial fibrillation, consult with your doctor to determine which medication would work best for you. Click here for a more in-depth discussion of these newer alternatives to Coumadin.
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