Warfarin, an anti-clotting drug given to patients suffering from atrial fibrillation has proved effective by reducing the number of strokes due to clotting. It is also used to prevent clotting in the deep-seated veins of the lower leg (deep vein thrombosis) and to prevent pulmonary embolism in patients having chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). However, according to a new study, its anti-clotting property has led to an increase in the number of strokes caused by bleeding to the brain particularly in patients over the age of 80.
Warfarin was earlier used as rat poison. After research in the nineties suggested Warfarin reduced the risk of ischemic stroke, it became a standard treatment for people suffering from atrial fibrillation.
Matthew Flaherty, the lead researcher and a neurologist at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, said the study results don't necessarily mean that use of warfarin should be given up, but motivate physicians to make sure that the drug is being used appropriately.
Dr. Flaherty said, Doctors can use these findings to make sure they are weighing the risks and benefits of warfarin use for their patients.He continued, 'The benefits of anti-clotting drugs are undeniable for some patients, such as those who have had blood clots.'
Dr. Flaherty said more research was needed to find anti-coagulants safer than warfarin to help patients who suffer from hemorrhagic strokes.
All cases of intracerebral hemorrhage (bleeding inside the brain) in the Cincinnati area between 1988 and 1999 were examined by the study. The cases connected with the use of blood-thinning drugs soared to 4.4 cases per 100,000 people by 1999 from 0.8 cases per 100,000 in 1988. In comparison, the rate of hemorrhagic strokes associated to warfarin use, rose to 45.9 per 100,000 in 1999 from 2.5 per 100,000 in 1988.
The study notes that, between 1993 and 1999, the rate of ischemic stroke in patients suffering from atrial fibrillation remained fixed at about 22 per 100,000. But, previous research has shown that warfarin use has halved the rate of ischemic stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation.
Warfarin is known by its brand name Coumadin, which is a product of Bristol Myers Squibb.