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Study Pits New Blood Thinner Against Warfarin For Irregular Heartbeat
Date:8/11/2011

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 10 (HealthDay News) -- A new drug that lowers stroke risk among people with an irregular heartbeat may give the old standby, warfarin, some competition, a new study shows.

Individuals with an erratic heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation are at increased risk for ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blockage such as a blood clot. For this reason, they have to take blood-thinning medications to lower this risk. Warfarin (also known as Coumadin) is considered the gold standard medication, but it often requires monitoring, adjustments and stringent dietary restrictions.

The new trial pitted the newer drug, rivaroxaban (Xarelto), against warfarin in more than 14,000 patients who were randomly assigned either warfarin or rivaroxaban. Neither the patients nor the doctors knew who was taking which drug.

The new agent proved to be as effective as warfarin at reducing the risk of ischemic stroke -- the most common kind of stroke -- but it did not need to be monitored as closely as warfarin since it is given as a one-size-fits-all dose.

Although potentially lifesaving, all blood-thinning drugs confer a risk of potentially life-threatening bleeding. The two medications had similar bleeding rates overall, but the new agent was less likely to cause fatal bleeds or bleeding in the brain, according to the study, which appears in the Aug. 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine .

In contrast, bleeding in the gastrointestinal region occurred more often in the rivaroxaban group, as did bleeds requiring transfusion.

The study was funded by Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development and Bayer Healthcare, the makers of rivaroxaban.

The new drug is already approved to help prevent deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots that form deep in a vein somewhere in the body, usually the leg. Rivaroxaban is not the only new bloo
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