For years, the primary method of stroke prevention has been the use of a drug more frequently used as a method of killing vermin. Warfarin, commonly known as “rat poison” has been used on patients considered to be at risk of strokes. It has, to the present day, been deemed very effective in doing so due to its blood-thinning capabilities. However, those same capabilities have had some negative results along with the positive ones. Cuts and stomach ulcers have led to excessive bleeding, and certain acidic foods have been known to react badly with it. The search has continued for a stroke prevention drug without the negative effects of Warfarin.
It seems now as though the search may have raised a preferable alternative. The drug does not suffer from the same side-effects as Warfarin, and additionally has been proven in clinical testing to be 34% more effective in reducing the risk of strokes in patients considered to be at risk. The drug, known as Pradaxa, has seen death rates reduced by 15%. These results come after three years of testing on more than 18,000 patients, over more than forty countries – the largest trial of its kind ever to be carried out.
The trial was designed to address the people most at risk from strokes, and involved participants with an average age of 71 who had a history of atrial fibrillation. The subjects were at random, assigned to treatment programs with one of the two drugs. The findings, including those listed above, were presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology and have been published online at the New England Journal of Medicine site. These are exciting results for patients who are considered to be at risk, as they remove the need for routine monitoring, although as things stand it is currently licensed in some places only for the treatment of orthopaedic patients post-surgery. An application to use it in this new way is currently pending.
As long as the application is granted, this new drug could prevent as many as 3,000 strokes a day worldwide. Doctors and patients alike will be keeping an eye out for the go-ahead to be given on a licence for the use of Pradaxa as an anti-stroke medication, including those currently using Warfarin. As beneficial as the old drug may have been, it may be time to retire it in stroke prevention cases.