Those suffering from atrial fibrillation, can now breathe a sigh of relief as a new drug to manage its consequences is now available on NHS.
At least a million Brits, mostly seniors, suffer from a heart condition called atrial fibrillation (AF), in which the chambers of the heart do not beat synchronously, causing the blood to collect inside and clot. The clot can then travel outside and get lodged in the brain blood vessels or neck resulting in a devastating stroke.
AdvertisementA person having AF has a five- fold increased chance of stroke which can be more debilitating than a stroke caused by other reasons.
Currently the drug warfarin, a blood thinner which was originally designed to function as rat poison, prescribed since 1950's, is used to manage the condition.
Warfarin has the ability to reduce two thirds of the risk for stroke but the patients have to undergo regular tests to monitor the dose of the drug, as a higher dose of warfarin can increase the risk of bleeding.
Also, taking other medicines, consuming alcohol or eating broccoli can affect the way warfarin functions. All these features and drawbacks have made doctors reluctant to prescribe warfarin for those at risk for a stroke.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has recently recommended that doctors in England and Wales prescribe a new drug called "apixaban", which is being marketed under the brand name Eliquis. Apixaban inhibits factor Xa, a component of the blood clotting mechanism. It thus acts as an anticoagulant.
The decision has been taken 18 months after a large study conducted on the drug which found that the pill (to be taken twice-daily) is even better than warfarin at preventing stroke and even reducing bleed episodes.
Apixaban has been projected as the new generation drug for stroke prevention. Another two drugs rivaroxaban and dabigatran, are projected to be equally effective. All the three drugs cost a little over £2 a day in comparison to warfarin which costs about £1 a day.
It is heartening to note that doctors will now have an extra arsenal in their armory for treating patients with AF and minimizing their risk for stroke.