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Blood Thinner OK for Superficial Leg Clots: Study
Date:9/22/2010

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- A blood-thinning drug could help some patients with superficial-vein thrombosis avoid more serious blood clots, a new study suggests. But experts question whether the benefit is worth the drug's high price.

Superficial-vein thrombosis, or superficial phlebitis, is characterized by blood clots in leg veins close to the skin. "This clot occurs in 90 percent of cases of varicose veins and is painful and visible for the patient," said the study's lead author, Dr. Herve Decousus, a researcher with University Hospital in Saint-Etienne, France.

Many factors -- long flights, pregnancy or recent surgery, among them -- can cause the condition. While serious complications of superficial-vein clots are rare, people with the condition can be at risk of developing deep-vein thrombosis, which is more serious and potentially fatal. Some doctors treat the superficial clots with blood-thinning medication or surgery; others don't treat them at all.

In the new study, researchers treated the superficial clots with Arixtra (fondaparinux), which is used to prevent and treat clots in the deep veins of the legs and in the lungs (pulmonary embolism), or a placebo. The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Arixtra, funded the study.

Researchers randomly assigned 3,002 patients to receive either injections of 2.5 mg of Arixtra daily or a placebo for 45 days. They monitored the patients for another 32 days.

The study findings appear in the Sept. 23 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

The risk of developing deep-vein blood clots or clots in the lungs was lower in those who took the drug: 0.2 percent in those taking Arixtra vs. 1.3 percent in those getting the placebo.

The researchers also found that the risk of serious adverse events was less in the Arixtra group (0.7 percent) compared with the placebo group (1
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