How A Pharmacist Can Help AF Patients Choose The Right Blood Thinner

Bill Semchuk, BSP, M.Sc., Pharm D, FCSHP, Pharmacist, discusses Atrial Fibrillation, stroke prevention and how a pharmacist can help AFib patients choose the right blood thinner.

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Bill Semchuk, BSP, M.Sc., Pharm D, FCSHP, Pharmacist, discusses Atrial Fibrillation, stroke prevention and how a pharmacist can help AFib patients choose the right blood thinner.
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Featuring Bill Semchuk, BSP, M.Sc., Pharm D, FCSHP, Pharmacist

Duration: 3 minutes, 8 seconds

Atrial fibrillation is a situation where the two top chambers of the heart – the atria – begin to beat irregularly. The problem with that is small blood clots can form in the atria, and those blood clots can float out and travel to various parts of the body.

If they travel to the brain they can cause a stroke, and stroke is a devastating complication. People with atrial fibrillation are more likely to have a stroke than those without. Blood thinners, or anticoagulants are very effective in decreasing the risk of stroke. And pharmacists can work with you to find the blood thinner that works best for you.

Now typically these drugs reduce the risk by two thirds or more. Traditionally, we’ve used Warfarin as our blood thinner of choice. More recently, we’ve had some new blood thinners come on the market that are more convenient, easier to use, as effective or more effective than Warfarin, as safe or safer than Warfarin, and it can make your journey just a little bit easier in managing your AFib.

The key though, is to take your medications regularly for the rest of your life. Taking medications regularly isn’t always easy, and that’s a behaviour that’s sometimes we have to learn. Atrial fibrillation is a chronic condition. That means that we’re going to have to take medications for the rest of our life.

So what’s really important is finding a medication that you can take regularly. When we look at the anticoagulants we have, you can take them once a day, or twice a day, depending on the drug. You can take them with or without food, depending on the drug.

Sometimes people forget to take them, and the pharmacist has lots of little tricks and options for you. There are things called blister packaging that will let you visually see how many you’ve taken. There are tools like dosettes, which help you see what you’ve taken.

It’s really important that you have a discussion with your pharmacist to determine how you can best take these drugs for the long term. Remember, if you stop taking your drugs you lose the benefit of them. So taking them regularly for the rest of your life is absolutely essential. The pharmacist can help you.

Money matters. Medications aren’t necessarily inexpensive. Warfarin tends to be a little less expensive as a prescription than does the newer drugs. But sometimes we have to look at total costs and total costs include the cost of going to the lab for your blood test. The new medications cost about the same as a cup of coffee a day.

The pharmacist can help you work through your affordability issues. If you feel that a medication is perhaps out of your affordability range, they can look for other options. Drug plans have different means of covering this, the pharmacist can liaise with you, and your prescriber, to find an option that works for you.

Atrial fibrillation’s a big deal. Carries a risk of stroke. Medications work to decrease that stroke substantially. Taking medications regularly, being able to afford them, getting the drug that’s right for you, are all the things that a pharmacist can do, and we really need to work as a team to find out what works for you, you can afford to take it, you have your questions answered, because information is powerful, and with that we should see a reduction in the risk of you having a bad event.

Presenter: Mr. Bill Semchuk, Pharmacist, Regina, SK

Local Practitioners: Pharmacist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.