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Stroke prevention medicine review helps people be medicinewise

09 August, 2011

Dabigatran (Pradaxa) – a new anticoagulant medicine to help prevent strokes in people with an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) is reviewed in the latest edition of Medicine Update, an online newsletter published by NPS: Better choices, Better health.

Dabigatran (Pradaxa) – a new anticoagulant medicine to help prevent strokes in people with an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) is reviewed in the latest edition of Medicine Update, an online newsletter published by NPS: Better choices, Better health.

Dabigatran is currently only available on private prescription for people with atrial fibrillation. 

The review helps people to be medicinewise by outlining what the medicine is used for, who it is suitable for, how the medicine works and the side effects to consider. It also compares dabigatran with warfarin, the standard treatment for stroke prevention in this group of people.

Dabigatran reduces the tendency of blood to clot and, in turn, the risk of having a stroke.  It’s an alternative to warfarin, which has been used for over 50 years.

NPS Head of Programs, Karen Kaye, says that in a clinical trial, dabigatran prevented more strokes than warfarin.  However, because warfarin is very effective the overall difference was small.

"People doing well on warfarin will probably not reduce their risk of stroke by switching to dabigatran and should probably stay with warfarin," Kaye said.

"People taking warfarin need to have regular blood tests (INR tests) to check how well the medicine is working, and to adjust their dose if required. Some people may find dabigatran more convenient because regular blood tests and dose adjustments are not required."

The most serious side effect for all anticoagulant medicines is bleeding.  Serious bleeding is a risk with both dabigatran and warfarin and needs urgent medical attention. People taking these medicines should be aware of the signs of serious bleeding and seek medical attention if concerned.

"The potential for bleeding needs to be weighed up against the serious consequences of a stroke", said Kaye.

"Your doctor will help you weigh up the potential benefits and harms of dabigatran and warfarin. Warfarin has been used for many years so its benefits and side effects are well known. Dabigatran is a new medicine and the full range of long term side effects is not yet known."

Kaye recommends that people thinking about starting dabigatran should read Medicine Update and discuss any issues with their health professional.

To read the full article go to www.nps.org.au/medicineupdate.

Source: NPS MedicineWise

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