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Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Blood thinners

The race to find an alternative to Coumadin — a blood thinner that has saved countless lives but requires close monitoring — continues.

Researchers reported today that a new blood thinner was shown in a recent study to be a safe and effective option for people with atrial fibrillation. In atrial fibrillation, the heart quivers instead of beating normally. This can lead to a pooling of blood, which can cause a blood clot, which can break off and head toward the brain — causing a stroke.

Coumadin (generic name: warfarin) has been a lifesaving drug for thousands if not millions of people at risk of developing blood clots because of atrial fibrillation and other problems. But making sure a person gets the right dosage is challenging. Too much, and the blood can become dangerously thin, upping the risk of massive bleeding. Not enough, and the drug might not effectively prevent clots.  Different people react differently to the medicine, and foods and other medicines can interact with it. So, the life of a patient on Coumadin involves frequent monitoring through blood tests.

This new drug — which isn’t on the market — is called rivaroxaban, and its makers are hoping to get federal approval to sell it later this year.

An Associated Press story about it begins this way: “A study finds that a new and easier-to-use blood thinner prevents strokes in people with a common heart rhythm problem as well as Coumadin does, and without an increase in bleeding or side effects.”

Here’s a link to more information from dukehealth.org: http://www.dukehealth.org/health_library/news/major-study-shows-ability-of-new-agent-to-prevent-strokes-in-patients-with-atrial-fibrillation

And here’s a link to a Bloomberg news piece about another anti-clotting drug that got FDA approval last month: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-19/boehringer-wins-u-s-approval-for-first-rival-to-blood-thinner-warfarin.html

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