Warfarin has been the “go to” drug for afib patients for a very long time. But a new study says that half of the people taking it aren’t getting any benefit from the drug at all.
This is pretty disturbing, given all the risks associated with taking the drug in the first place.
Half of patients with Afib (49.4%) failed to maintain optimal blood clotting levels in the medically recommended therapeutic range to reduce the risk of stroke or potentially dangerous hemorrhage, according to blood tests to assess the International Normalized Ratio (INR; target range is 2.0-3.0). Among these patients, 32.5% had results during therapy that were too low (INR <2.0), predisposing them to an increased possibility of blood clots, while 16.9% were too high (INR >3.0), consistent with heightened bleeding risk.
At least the issue doesn’t seem to be the Warfarin itself, but the difficulty that patients have in keeping their clotting levels in the right zone. Attempts to do so can be problematic, since they require patients to maintain very strict food and activity level routines every single day. The slightest misstep can throw clotting levels off, which is why Warfarin requires so many tests.
And, of course, it’s even harder if your physician isn’t experienced enough to give you good advice on how to manage your blood clot levels. This may account for the study’s other results: the study also found that the more experience a physician has administering the Warfarin treatment the greater your likelihood of receiving a benefit from it.
Most of the physicians in the study–nearly 95%–had fewer than 10 patients undergoing a Warfarin treatment.
So before you blindly accept a Warfarin prescription from your doctor it might be important to ask him how many other patients he’s treated with Warfarin. If you don’t like what you hear you might want to look into the newer alternative blood thinners instead, since they aren’t so high-maintenance.