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Study says going off blood thinner is dangerous

New research indicates that people who stop taking the blood thinner warfarin over concerns about gastrointestinal bleeding raise their risk of blood clots and death if they remain off the drug, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Warfarin makes it harder for clots to form and block the blood stream, and is prescribed to ward off conditions such as stroke that are caused by blood clots. It also raises the risk of blood vessels rupturing. About 4.5 percent of patients treated with the blood thinner have an episode of gastrointestinal tract bleeding, according to the researchers.

Yet alternatives to warfarin may be more dangerous. For example, the blood thinner Pradaxa was marketed as being more convenient that warfarin because it doesn’t require the same testing requirements and dietary restrictions. But 3,781 adverse effects and 542 deaths associated with Pradaxa were reported to the FDA last year, surpassing all other monitored drugs. The FDA is now conducting a safety review of Pradaxa.

U.S. News and World Report says the warfarin study, published online Sept. 17 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, is limited because it looks only at what happened to patients over a 90-day period after suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding.

But commentary accompanying the study notes that staying off the blood thinner for a long period does appear to have inherent risks.

The report quotes Dr. Amir Jaffer, professor of medicine and division chief for hospital medicine at the University of Miami and co-author of the commentary, as saying he recommends that patients who suffer from bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract stop taking the blood thinner for about four days unless a significant reason exists to avoid the drug for the long term.

The researchers reviewed medical records of nearly 450 Colorado patients who developed gastrointestinal bleeding while taking warfarin. The participants’ average age was 72.

After the study authors adjusted statistics to account for factors such as gender or age, they found that those who resumed taking warfarin were 31 percent less likely to die than those who didn’t. Fewer than 6 percent of those who resumed warfarin died, compared to 20 percent of those who didn’t.

Patients should consult their doctors before making any changes in their medication. A consultation with a Pradaxa lawyer is also important if there are significant injuries while on Pradaxa.

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