WEDNESDAY, Oct. 20 (HealthDay News) -- If you're taking the blood-thinning medication warfarin, a new study suggests that you might not always need to visit the doctor to get your medication levels checked.
The study, which is published in the Oct. 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, found that weekly home tests were similarly effective to monthly clinic testing for patients taking warfarin therapy.
The study compared clinic-based testing to home testing for about 3,000 patients taking the anticoagulant drug, explained one of the study's authors, Dr. Rowena Dolor, an assistant professor in the division of internal medicine at Duke University Medical Center, and a staff physician at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, N.C. "While the study showed no difference in long-term outcomes, those on home testing spent more time in the target range for medication levels," she said.
Blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin, also known as anticoagulation therapy, are prescribed to help keep the blood from clotting excessively, as this can cause ischemic strokes or heart attacks. However, too much of these medications can also cause problems, such as serious internal bleeding or a hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke.
The reason it's so hard to find the right balance is that many factors affect the way these medications are utilized in the body. Everyone needs an individualized dose -- the foods you eat and other drugs can change the effectiveness of the blood-thinning medication, said Dr. Marc Siegel, an internist at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
To avoid these complications, people on these medications have to have their blood frequently monitored, especially when first starting therapy. Until recently, this meant a visit to the doctor's office.
But now, several devices are available for home testing. The cost of the devices av
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