Thousands of people could avoid having strokes if they take a new type of drug that thins the blood, researchers have claimed.
The effects of standard warfarin and the new medication, dabigatran etexilate, were compared in trials with 18,000 patients from 44 countries.
Every participant had atrial fibrillation, a common disorder of the heart which increases the chance of stroke and having blood clots.
The patients were split between low, moderate and high-risk groups and the researchers monitored the number of strokes and incidences of blood clotting and bleeding that took place.
The new drug reduced stroke risk in high-risk patients by 30% more than warfarin and performed well on the low and medium-risk patients. The annual rate of strokes was cut by as much as 90% in AF patients when dabigatran effects were compared with what happened when no treatment was given. Dabigatran is said to be much easier to manage and is understood to avoid many problems associated with warfin.
Sold under the brand name Pradaxa, dabigatran is due to become available across the UK from August but will cost a lot more money than warfarin. It can be prescribed at the moment to stop blood clots occurring after surgery to replace a patient’s hip or knee.
The study is part of the “randomised evaluation of long term anti-coagulant therapy” trial and its findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology’s annual scientific session in Atlanta, Georgia.
Copyright Press Association 2010
American College of Cardiology