Healthwise: Pradaxa New Alternative to Coumadin

By: Stephanie Satchell Email
By: Stephanie Satchell Email

February 2, 2011

A new drug is making managing heart conditions and blood levels much easier for patients. At Cardiovascular Associates of Charlottesville, Martha Jefferson Hospital doctors are helping treat patients with a new blood thinning drug called Pradaxa.

“For most people, it's a pill you take twice a day,” said Dr. Timothy Williams, Cardiologist.

Patients typically take Pradaxa if they have an Arrhythmia known as Atrial Fibrillation or risk factors for stroke. Risk factors include congestive heart failure, high blood pressure/hypertension, an age greater than 75, and diabetes.

Before Pradaxa, many patients took Coumadin for these conditions. It required monthly blood work, a change in diet, often interfered with other medications and came with an increased risk of bleeding and bruising.

“Patients don't like the cosmetic appearance of bumping their skin and ending up with a huge bruise,” said Williams.

Unlike Coumadin, doctors say Pradaxa is less of a hassle. That's why so many patients in Charlottesville are making the switch.

“It really has the ability for someone to take the medicine and decrease the number of office visits. It also decreases the number of blood draws,” said Williams.

So far, Pradaxa's main side effects are heartburn and upset stomach. Doctors say there could be more side effects the longer Pradaxa stays on the market and the more time researchers have to learn about the drug.

Doctors also say Pradaxa will cost patients a bit more at the pharmacy, but they may end up spending about the same in the long run. Coumadin requires monthly doctor's visits and lab work which is an extra fee. When taking Pradaxa the monthly visits are no longer necessary.

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