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New Blood Thinner Prevents Strokes in Heart Patients

Study Shows Xarelto Works as Well as Warfarin in Preventing Strokes for Patients With Atrial Fibrillation

Comparing Xarelto to Warfarin continued...

Most patients were followed for about two years.

During that time, 269 people taking Xarelto and 306 people taking warfarin suffered strokes or had a blood clot that lodged somewhere else in the body, proving the drugs to be roughly similar.

"I think it's a reasonable alternative to warfarin. It's at least as good as warfarin," says Patel.

It doesn't require frequent trips back to the doctor, he tells WebMD, "so from a patient's perspective, it represents a potential alternative to the current standard."

Bleeding Risk

Significant bleeding, an expected risk of drugs that keep blood from clotting, occurred in 1,475 patients taking Xarelto and 1,449 patients taking warfarin.

Anemia, blood transfusions, and bleeding in the stomach and gut were more common in people taking Xarelto than those taking warfarin.

But people on Xarelto were less likely to experience bleeding in their brains or fatal bleeding than those on warfarin.

Experts say Xarelto may be less likely to cause bleeding in the brain than warfarin because it's a more targeted drug.

In the body, a chain of chemical reactions leads to blood clotting. Warfarin interferes with four steps in that chain, while Xarelto only blocks one part of the reaction, an enzyme called factor Xa.

Weighing Benefits and Risks

Gregory J. del Zoppo,MD, a hematologist and professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, says the main benefit of this drug and several similar agents, including the drug Pradaxa, which was approved by the FDA last year to treat atrial fibrillation, is likely to be convenience.

"To have something that's easier to manage and takes less involvement is probably useful," he says, particularly for older patients who may have trouble keeping up with their medication.

But he says there are several potential downsides of the newer drugs that patients need to understand.

One is cost. The newer drugs cost between $6 and $9 a day to take compared to warfarin, which is available generically for $4 a month through several large U.S. retailers.

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