Anticoagulants (blood thinners) are medications that are used to treat several types of cardiovascular conditions. They are commonly used to treat patients with atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heart rhythm, and also to help patients with mechanical heart valves or those who have had blood clots in either their veins or arteries.
For many years, warfarin (Coumadin®) was the only anticoagulant treatment option available. In recent years, however, several new types of blood thinners have been shown to be effective and safe, including dabigatran, rivaroxaban, apixaban, and edoxaban. These additional options are significant, as they can be preferable to warfarin in certain cases. The advantages of these newer drugs over warfarin include decreased risk of bleeding, no need for routine laboratory monitoring, and fewer interactions with foods and other drugs. The newer drugs, however, also have some limitations when compared with warfarin. These newer medications, for instance, are short-acting (having effects that last for a short time), which can create problems for patients who have issues with adherence (taking medications as prescribed). It also is easier to reverse the effects of warfarin when patients have a bleeding complication or overdose on their anticoagulant medication.