Anticoagulants are prescribed after accidents, traumas, and surgeries where veins, blood vessels and arteries are damaged. They’re specifically used to help prevent blood clots from causing strokes, heart attacks, and pulmonary embolisms. These medications, also known as blood thinners, help slow down—or in some cases prevent—the normal reaction of blood to form clots. As a result, your blood flow stays as fluid as possible.
According to the Mayo Clinic, without the help of anticoagulants, blood clots can cause arteries and veins to become blocked. When this occurs, blood flow stops and oxygen and essential nutrients can no longer get to where it needs to be. After a very short time of being denied oxygen, tissues surrounding these “suffocating” areas begin to die, resulting in serious problems such as a stroke, cardiac arrest, deep vein thrombosis, and organ failure.
Anticoagulant Variations and Effects
Although the US National Library of Medicine admits that oral anticoagulation medicine had been limited in the past, newer variations have begun to allow physicians a broader choice when prescribing anticoagulants. These variations give the prescribing physician, as well as the patient, an opportunity to choose dose variations, half-life considerations, and reversal (antidote) options, instead of being forced to use only one type. Some variations include:
- Warfarin (Coumadin) – Most people who need an anticoagulant are prescribed warfarin, as it is well-tested, reliable for preventing clots, and has a known counter agent in case something goes wrong (if the drug is causing excessive blood loss, the anticoagulation properties can be counteracted with the administering of vitamin K). Your body naturally produces vitamin K, which plays a role in the production of prothrombin. Warfarin interrupts vitamin K production, thus interrupting the production of the clotting protein and making it difficult for clots to form or remain in the bloodstream. Unfortunately, due to the fact that it works by altering the vitamin K within the bloodstream, certain medications and food (leafy vegetables high in vitamin K) can affect its potency.
- Heparin – Although heparin forms naturally in the body, it can be extracted, purified, and concentrated to be used as an anticoagulant. It can be given as an injection or through a drip into a vein. Although reliable for preventing blood clots, heparin cannot help break down existing clots.
- Antiplatelet agents – Some medications such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen can be prescribed as anticoagulants, as they prevent platelets within your blood from sticking together, helping to prevent clots from forming. However, these types of medications aren’t specifically designed to stop clotting and are therefore classified as antiplatelet agents rather than anticoagulants.
- Factor X inhibitors (Xarelto, Rivaroxaban) – Rather than altering prothrombin production through the blood’s vitamin K, factor X inhibitors target specific coagulation enzymes within the blood (thrombokinase) to quickly stop coagulations and clots. Since these types of anticoagulants don’t interfere with the vitamin K production, they do not interact with food, don’t require re-dosing and constant monitoring of protein levels. However, concern lies in the fact that there is currently no known antidote or counteragent for the drug, leaving excessive blood loss as a severe risk. In addition, Xarelto has been known to increase the risk of renal failure, have an unpredictable half-life, and has unclear dosage requirements.
Sharing Your Experiences to Get the Help You Deserve
Given the potential risks involved with anticoagulant medications, do you think the FDA should monitor new blood thinners more than it does? Do the benefits of blood thinners outweigh their risks? Do you think the FDA should recall the more dangerous types, such as Xarelto?
Let us know your thoughts and concerns about these various types of medications by leaving your opinions and questions in the comment section. Your personal experiences with Xarelto and other blood thinners will not only help us learn more about our future clients’ concerns, but they can also help our readers get a better understanding of their risks.
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