New drug reduces stroke in high risk patientsBetter than aspirin
A new drug is better than aspirin at preventing stroke in high risk patients, a study has shown.
The drug - known as apixaban - was said to be "vastly superior" to aspirin at reducing the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF).
AF affects around 750,000 people in the UK, and is one of the most common heart rhythm problems. The most common symptom of AF is a fast and irregular heartbeat.
Although AF patients are at a higher risk of stroke, as many as 50 per cent of patients are unsuitable for treatment using vitamin K antagonists such as warfarin, which help prevent the formation of blood clots. Until now, the only alternative treatment has been aspirin.
However, the clinical trial which involved 5,600 AF patients found apixaban lowered the risk of suffering a stroke by 3.6 per cent in a year, compared with aspirin which reduced the risk by just 1.6 per cent.
The researchers said the drug also works better in people with a history of stroke or mini-stroke.
The drug works by blocking factor Xa, a crucial step in blood clot formation.
Professor Hans-Christoph Diener at the Department of Neurology and Stroke Centre, University Hospital Essen, Germany said: "Apixaban was highly superior to aspirin. We had not anticipated that apixaban would show such a big difference compared with aspirin while showing no significant increase in major bleeds.
"Everyone had expected that a more powerful drug like apixaban would be associated with more severe bleeding complications compared to aspirin, but it wasn't.
"If validated by future studies I think this is the end of aspirin as a drug to prevent stroke in patients with AF," he added.
The findings were presented at the International Stroke Conference 2011 in Dallas.
This article was published on Fri 11 February 2011
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