Warfarin Verses Newer Anticoagulants For AF and Stroke Prevention

Mr. Bill Semchuk, BSP, M.Sc., Pharm D, FCSHP, Pharmacist, talks about the differences between Warfarin and the newer anticoagulants now on the market for stroke prevention.

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Mr. Bill Semchuk, BSP, M.Sc., Pharm D, FCSHP, Pharmacist, talks about the differences between Warfarin and the newer anticoagulants now on the market for stroke prevention.
Video transcript

Featuring Bill Semchuk, BSP, M.Sc., Pharm D, FCSHP, Pharmacist

Duration: 2 minutes, 44 seconds

Atrial fibrillation is a situation or a condition in which the top two chambers of the heart beat irregularly. What we worry about is with them beating irregularly is blood clots forming. Those blood clots could float to many parts of the body, if they float to the brain they can cause a stroke. A stroke is a horrible thing.

People with atrial fibrillation are much more likely to have a stroke than people without, probably about five times as likely. Now here’s the good news: we have lots of good medications to decrease the risk of stroke, and we can decrease the risk of stroke by two thirds or even more with some of the newer medications.

Traditionally, we’ve used an old drug like Warfarin, which works well but it’s a little bit more challenging to use. The newer drugs are much more convenient to the patient, easier to use, as effective or more effective, with a little less risk.

The key to all this though, once we put you on drug therapy, you’ve got to do your job and take those drugs for a long time and take them regularly. If I can go a bit deeper into understanding the drug therapy we have available to use, we can use Warfarin which has been used for a long time, but Warfarin poses a lot of challenges.

The dose has to be customized to you, the dose changes with the use of other medications or herbals, it changes with what you eat, it changes with the amount of exercise you get, it changes with illness.

So it’s finicky to use, and the key is to get the dose right for you we have to do blood tests, and that will cause you to have to go to the lab to have that blood test done. Now that blood test has to be interpreted, most often by your doctor, or perhaps your pharmacist or nurse. And with that blood test we fix to get the exact right amount of drug for you.

The newer drugs pose a lot of advantages. There’s a standard dose for everybody. You don’t need routine blood testing to get the dose right for you. You can take it once a day or twice a day depending on the drug, you can take it with or without food, depending on the drug.

It’s much more convenient, you don’t have to go to the lab and it’s as effective as Warfarin, or safer than Warfarin, and the really bad bleeds are less common on these new drugs. Now one of the things that we would have to consider, is it’s slightly more expensive. But you have to look at the whole cost, and not only the cost of the prescription.

Atrial fibrillation’s a big deal. It carries a risk of stroke. Medications work to decrease that stroke risk substantially. Taking medications regularly, being able to afford them, getting the drug that’s right for you are all things that a pharmacist can do.

And we really need to work as a team to ensure that we have a drug that works for you, you can afford to take it, you have your questions answered – because information’s 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.