Pradaxa, developed by the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, is the latest blood thinner in the market. It is being touted as a replacement for the chemical warfarin which has many side effects. This blood thinner has undergone years of intensive research and clinical tests. On March 18, 2008, the European Medicines Agency granted authorization for the marketing of this blood thinner for the treatment and prevention of thromboembolic disease. In another major breakthrough The United States Food and Drug Administration granted approval for use of Pradaxa on October 19, 2010. Pradaxa capsules contain the active ingredient dabigatran etexilate and it has been made as a safer alternative to warfarin which requires constant monitoring. It is the first new anticoagulant to be introduced to the market in the last fifty years. It has already gained approval for use in 75 counties.
Pradaxa is an anticoagulant direct thrombin inhibitor. It is used for prevention of strokes and systemic embolism in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). AF affects 1% of people around the world and 10% of people over the age of 80. Around three million patients afflicted with AF suffer from strokes every year as this leads to the formation of blood clots. So far, Warfarin was used to combat strokes but it has many adverse side effects. Pradaxa is a more effective drug with lesser side effects. Pradaxa successfully blocks the activity of thrombin (both free and clot-bound) which is primarily responsible for clot formation. It is also used in preventing blood clots in hip and knee surgery patients. Clinical tests have proved that this blood thinner, unlike warfarin, acts rapidly and displays quick results. Another major difference is that patients using this drug need not make any change in their diet. Clinical tests have proven that those given Pradaxa have a 34% lower risk of stroke or systemic embolism than patients given warfarin.
Though this blood thinner has fewer side effects as compared to traditional blood thinners like warfarin it should be used only under a doctor’s guidance. There may be some side effects, and as this prescription medication is relatively new, many side effects may not be realized as of yet. Like other blood thinning drugs, Pradaxa too may cause bleeding even resulting in death but such incidents are less. The patient should consult the doctor if he or she observes unusual bruising, coughing up or vomiting blood. It can also cause stomach upset or burning, and stomach pain. People over 75 should use this drug carefully especially if they are already suffering from stomach ulcer and kidney problems. In rare cases it can also cause drug allergy. So far there is no evidence that this medicine can be safely be used on pregnant women. Conclusion Though Pradaxa has arrived like a breath of fresh air in the world of prescription blood thinners, it is not foolproof and has a few drawbacks. It is certainly far better and more effective than warfarin and may eventually replace the drug in the long run. Unlike warfarin, Pradaxa does not necessitate regular blood tests and prothrombin time monitoring, saving the patient needless trouble and not affecting the quality of his life.