Atrial fibrillation is a very common arrhythmia in which the top chambers of the heart beat quickly and erratically. Since the pumping of the atria is abnormal during atrial fibrillation, a clot can form in the heart. If the clot travels up to the brain this leads to a stroke. For this reason, people with atrial fibrillation are at a higher risk of stroke and may need to take a strong blood thinner called Coumadin (generic name warfarin).
Coumadin and warfarin dosages are variable and need frequent monitoring. One person may only need to take 5mg per day while another person might need 7.5mg per day. Fingerstick checks are done every few days to every month for checking the level (called INR). People who cannot or will not take Coumadin need to take at least an aspirin a day to lower the risk of stroke. Sounds like a lot of work right?
A simpler drug may be available soon! A new study out of Ontario has reviewed a new medicine called apixaban in terms of replacing Coumadin and warfarin. When compared with aspirin only, apixaban reduced the risk of stroke and other clotting problems by 54%! The dose is standard for everyone and apparently there is no need for fingerstick checks. Let’s pray that apixaban makes it through the next trial so we can truly have a great new alternative to Coumadin!