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New anti-stroke drug available on the NHS

23 January 2013

New anti-stroke drug available on the NHS

A new type of drug which could dramatically cut the risk of stroke has been approved for prescription by the NHS.

At least a million elderly people suffer from atrial fibrillation (AF), a heart condition which causes the chambers to beat out of sync, causing blood to pool and clot. These blood clots can travel and become lodged in the neck or brain blood vessels, leading to a stroke. Having this condition increases the risk of a stroke fivefold and the effects tend to be more serious than normal.

Most people are currently prescribed warfarin to thin the blood but frequent blood tests are needed to check the dosage and drinking alcohol, eating broccoli and taking other medication can limit its effectiveness.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended that doctors now prescribe the new drug, apixaban marketed under the name Eliquis.  The decision comes as a large study found that the drug was more effective than warfarin.  It cut the number of strokes by 21%, when compared to warfarin, and the number of bleeds by 31%.  Compared to taking nothing, it is likely that this new drug could cut the risk of stroke by about 80%.

Dr Peter Coleman, deputy director of research at the Stroke Association, said, “We welcome the approval of apixaban and are pleased that health professionals will now have an extra treatment in their armoury when treating patients with atrial fibrillation in order to reduce their risk of stroke.”