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Atrial Fibrillation Health Center

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Anti-clotting Drug Warfarin May Be Safe for Elderly

Studies Suggest Warfarin May Be Underused for Patients Over 80

Warfarin vs. Newer Anti-clotting Drugs continued...

Pico presented results of the so-called EPICA Study. It's the largest study on very old patients taking warfarin to prevent stroke or dangerous blood clots.

The study involved 4,093 patients aged 80 to 102 who were being treated with warfarin for the first time. About 60% had moderate kidney damage.

Over a three-year period, 179 suffered a serious bleed. That's equivalent to about 2% of patients per year.

The most dangerous type of bleeding -- into the brain -- occurred in 53 patients. That translates to 1% of patients annually.

People on warfarin are given frequent blood tests to make sure they are getting appropriate doses. If too much is given, you can suffer a dangerous bleed. Take too little and the risk of a potentially deadly blood clot increases further.

In the study, the older patients were in the correct dosage range about two-thirds of the time. That's similar to the figure reported in studies of younger patients.

American Heart Association President Gordon Tomaselli, MD, tells WebMD that he treats all his patients who are 80 and over with atrial fibrillation with warfarin or a newer anti-clotting drug "because they are the folks most likely to benefit in terms of reduction in stroke."

These studies were presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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