Study Suggests Warfarin Might Be More Dangerous Than Originally Thought

Things just seem to keep getting worse for heart patients on blood thinners.  For years, Warfarin was the standard blood thinner that many heart patients took to prevent blood clots and strokes.  However, new information has emerged which paints a bleaker picture.  This drug may be much riskier than originally believed.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal is reporting that 4% of the 125,000 patients studied experienced  bleeds per year. In the first month of treatment alone, roughly 12% experienced a bleed as well. Researchers followed this group of patients for years, and after 4 years, determined 9% of them, or an estimated 11,000 patients, had to be hospitalized.  1/5 of these patients later died.  These results are higher than original study outcomes and researchers suggest additional study may be required. 

How Warfarin Works to Prevent Strokes

Warfarin is the most common blood thinner in America.  On any given day, approximately 3 million people take the drug to thin the blood to prevent blood clots.  In patients with irregular heart beats, blood clots can accumulate and travel to the heart or brain, causing a stroke. To prevent this clotting, patients take the drug to thin the blood in a therapeutic manner. This is used in conjunction with a strict diet and strict doctor monitoring. 

Warfarin is a complex drug and works within a rather narrow window to thin the blood, but not produce blood thin enough to cause a fatal bleed.  Because the body changes and adapts to treatment, frequent blood tests are required to keep the bleeding time in a therapeutic range.  Warfarin specifically inhibits Vitamin K from interacting with enzymes to produce blood clots.  Because 4 of the 13 clotting factors require Vitamin K to produce clots, Warfarin is able to slow these clotting interactions by as much as 50%.  Should a potentially fatal bleed occur, patients can counteract these affects with large amounts of Vitamin K introduced into their system at once. 

How You May Be at Risk

Researchers in the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) study assert the drug may not be suitable for everyone that is prescribed this blood thinner.  The reason why is that many of their observed patients suffered sever hemorrhages, particularly in the brain, which led to death.  Researchers admitted that further study was needed to adequately determine the risks that potential side effects could have on patients.  But the study's observed results recorded higher percentages of potentially serious health outcomes than the drug's initial clinical trials suggested. 

There are many heart medications on the market, and unfortunately, the news is full of reported serious outcomes.  Heart patients should speak to their doctor about the risks and which might be appropriate for them.  However, if you suffer a serious health outcome as the result of your heart medication, you may want to speak to a skilled product liability attorney to determine whether you may be eligible for compensation to help with your medical costs.