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Pricey New Blood Thinner May Be Safer for Leg Clots

In trial, Eliquis worked as well as warfarin but with less risk of bleeding

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For the new study, researchers compared Eliquis to warfarin in nearly 5,400 patients with a history of venous thromboembolism. The average age of study participants was 57. Roughly 60 percent were men. Sixty-five percent had a history of DVT. About 25 percent had a history of PE. About 9 percent had both DVT and PE.

Half of the study participants took 10 milligrams (mg) of Eliquis twice daily for seven days, before dropping their dosage to 5 mg twice daily for six months. The other half started with twice daily injections of the blood-thinning drug Lovenox (low-weight heparin), followed by daily, personalized warfarin therapy.

After six months, 59 patients in the Eliquis group and 71 patients who got standard therapy had a new blood clot. Of those, 12 patients in the Eliquis group and 15 patients in the warfarin group died from clots, showing that both drugs worked about equally well.

But patients who took Eliquis had less serious bleeding than those who took warfarin. Out of 2,676 patients taking Eliquis, 15 had major bleeding on the drugs. Of 2,689 patients taking warfarin, 49 experienced major bleeding.

"That's almost a 70 percent reduction in major bleeding with Eliquis, compared to conventional therapy. That's huge," said Weitz.

Beyond serious bleeding, Weitz said people taking Eliquis also had less nuisance bleeding of the gums or nose, which can lead patients to stop taking their medication.

"I think it's very important," said Weitz, who reported that he has been a consultant for study sponsors Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer, along with other pharmaceutical companies, within the past three years.

Another expert who wasn't involved in the study agreed.

"This new approach may simplify the treatment regimen, improve patient convenience and substantially increase the safety of venous thromboembolism treatment, making this an attractive new option," said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, who is co-director of the University of California, Los Angeles, preventive cardiology program at the David Geffen School of Medicine.

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