February 16, 2011 – The newly approved drug dabigatran is an alternative to warfarin to help prevent dangerous blood clots in patients with atrial fibrillation, according to updated guidelines from the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association and the Heart Rhythm Society.
The “Focused Update” — published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, Journal of the American College of Cardiology and HeartRhythm Journal— specifically updates the section on emerging antithrombotic agents in atrial fibrillation treatment guidelines released by the three organizations on Dec. 20, 2010.
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm that occurs when the heart’s two upper chambers beat erratically, causing the chambers to pump blood rapidly, unevenly and inefficiently. Blood can pool and clot in the chambers, increasing the risk of stroke or heart attack. More than 2 million Americans live with the condition.
According to the update, dabigatran is useful as an alternative to warfarin to prevent stroke and blood clots in patients with either paroxysmal (recurrent episodes that stop after seven days) or permanent (an on-going episode) atrial fibrillation. It is also useful in patients with risk factors for stroke or blood clotting who do not have a prosthetic heart valve, significant heart valve disease, severe renal failure or advanced liver disease.
Warfarin, an anticlotting drug used since the 1950s, requires patients to have regular testing to monitor its effectiveness and dosage adjustment.
In December 2010 the atrial fibrillation guidelines said that a combination of aspirin and clopidogrel might be considered to prevent stroke or other types of blood clots in patients with atrial fibrillation who are poor candidates for warfarin.
For more information: www.cardiosource.org/ACC, www.heart.org, www.HRSonline.org