Every single person in the United States knows someone who suffers from some form of heart disease. This serious medical condition, which includes all heart conditions, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues, is the number one cause of death in the country. Thankfully, due to the advances made in medicine, patients diagnosed with heart disease are living longer, healthier lives. That being said, not all of the medications used to treat these patients are necessary or safe.
Can Heart Disease Patients Avoid Blood Thinners?
Recently, a new study focused on patients who had been treated for two specific types of heart disease, atrial fibrillation and blockages in the coronary arteries. The purpose of the study was to determine if a commonly used three-drug treatment was necessary due to the side effects that commonly arose.
In the three-drug treatment, patients are typically placed on aspirin, clopidogrel, and a third anticoagulant such as Xarelto or warfarin. Each of these drugs specifically targets a different part of the clotting process and works to prevent blood clots that could cause a heart attack or a stroke. The problem is that many patients suffer from a bleeding episode during which doctors struggle to stop their blood loss and encourage clotting.
“We’ve hated putting patients on triple therapy.” said one cardiologist.
Thankfully, the study showed that when the patients took only two of the blood thinners, clopidogrel and warfarin, there was as much as a 41% reduction in the risk of a life-threatening bleeding event.
Why Use Warfarin Instead Of Xarelto?
Warfarin is one of the oldest blood thinner on the market and until recently, was one of the only options available to doctors. There are some downsides to being prescribed this drug – patients must return to their doctor frequently to have bloodwork in order to determine that the correct dose is being used. This is because the patient’s diet, age, weight, and exercise level can impact how the drug interacts in the body.
Most individuals are at the very least annoyed that they have to return to their doctor, sometimes as frequently as once a week, so when Xarelto came onto the market, it wasn’t surprising that many opted to make a switch. While on Xarelto, a patient only needs to be checked occasionally because the drug is the same dose regardless of external factors. It seemed like an excellent alternative to both the medical community and those suffering from heart disease.
Unfortunately, Xarelto has its own set of side effects that many consider more dangerous than those of Warfarin.
The most dangerous side effects that a patient taking Xarelto may experience is:
- brain hemorrhage
- pulmonary embolism
- spinal bleeding
- GI bleeding
- liver dysfunction
What complicates most of these events, is that once bleeding starts, it is incredibly difficult for doctors to stop because Xarelto does not have an antidote.
Why Does An Antidote Matter?
An antidote reverses the effect that a drug has on the body. In Xarelto’s case, if an antidote existed, it would be used to encourage the blood to form a clot and stop serious bleeding. However, because there is no antidote, a doctor’s only option is to administer a blood transfusion, which often isn’t enough to save the patient’s life. \
Unlike Xarelto, Warfarin does have an antidote: Vitamin K. This fact makes it a much safer choice. In addition to safety, because the drug has been around for decades, it is also less expensive option.
Today, the manufacturers of Xarelto are facing thousands of lawsuits filed by patients who were harmed by the drug or the loved ones of patients who died from the side effects of the drug. These plaintiffs are hoping to obtain compensation for medical bills, lost wages, funeral and burial expenses, loss of consortium, physical pain and suffering, and even emotional suffering.