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New oral antithrombotics: focus on dabigatran, an oral, reversible direct thrombin inhibitor for the prevention and treatment of venous and arterial thromboembolic disorders

Authors Dahl OE

Received 23 September 2011

Accepted for publication 7 December 2011

Published 25 January 2012 Volume 2012:8 Pages 45—57

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/VHRM.S26482

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Ola E Dahl1,2
1
Department of Orthopaedics, Innlandet Hospital Trust, Elverum Central Hospital, Elverum, Norway; 2Thrombosis Research Institute, London, UK

Abstract: Venous thromboembolism, presenting as deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, is a major challenge for health care systems. It is the third most common vascular disease after coronary heart disease and stroke, and many hospitalized patients have at least one risk factor. In particular, patients undergoing hip or knee replacement are at risk, with an incidence of asymptomatic deep vein thrombosis of 40%–60% without thromboprophylaxis. Venous thromboembolism is associated with significant mortality and morbidity, with patients being at risk of recurrence, post-thrombotic syndrome, and chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension. Arterial thromboembolism is even more frequent, and atrial fibrillation, the most common embolic source (cardiac arrhythmia), is associated with a five-fold increase in the risk of stroke. Strokes due to atrial fibrillation tend to be more severe and disabling and are more often fatal than strokes due to other causes. Currently, recommended management of both venous and arterial thromboembolism involves the use of anticoagulants such as coumarin and heparin derivatives. These agents are effective, although have characteristics that prevent them from providing optimal anticoagulation and convenience. Hence, new improved oral anticoagulants are being investigated. Dabigatran is a reversible, direct thrombin inhibitor, which is administered as dabigatran etexilate, the oral prodrug. Because it is the first new oral anticoagulant that has been licensed in many countries worldwide for thromboprophylaxis following orthopedic surgery and for stroke prevention in patients with atrial fibrillation, this compound will be the main focus of this review. Dabigatran has been investigated for the treatment of established venous thromboembolism and prevention of recurrence in patients undergoing hip or knee replacement, as well as for stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation patients with a moderate and high risk of stroke.

Keywords: dabigatran etexilate, venous thromboembolism, stroke, prevention, treatment

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