2 SEPTEMBER 2013
Remember to Weigh up Risks And Benefits of New Pbs-Listed Anticoagulants
NPS MedicineWise is reiterating safety messages around the newer anticoagulant medicines dabigatran (brand name Pradaxa)
and apixaban (Eliquis) with their PBS listing for preventing stroke on 1 September 2013. The safety messages also apply
for rivaroxaban (Xarelto) which was PBS-listed last month.
These medicines will be subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for preventing stroke in suitable people
with atrial fibrillation (a medical condition where the heart beat is irregular), and may provide an alternative for
However NPS MedicineWise clinical adviser Dr Andrew Boyden emphasises that there are risks associated with these
medications and it is important to understand these.
“If you’re already taking an oral anticoagulant to prevent stroke, it’s crucial that you don’t stop taking your current
anticoagulant suddenly without medical advice, as this may put you at risk of blood clots that could cause a stroke,”
advises Dr Boyden.
“Talk to your doctor if you want to know more about the newer oral anticoagulants because — like all medicines — there
are risks as well as benefits involved in taking them, and this is particularly important in the case of anticoagulants.
“Together with your doctor you can decide if one of the newer anticoagulants is an option for you based on your
individual situation, medical conditions and lifestyle.”
The main side effect of all anticoagulants including dabigatran, apixaban and rivaroxaban is bleeding, however unlike
warfarin, if you start bleeding while taking one of these newer anticoagulants, there is currently no way to reverse it
Dr Boyden emphasises that anyone taking an anticoagulant should be aware of the signs of bleeding.
“Ask your health professional what signs and symptoms you need to look out for, when you should contact your doctor
about them and when you need to go to a hospital emergency department. Some signs of bleeding may not be obvious, so it
is important to know what these are,” he says.
“It is also a good idea to talk to your health professional about ways to reduce your risk of injury and chances of
Unlike warfarin, people taking the newer anticoagulants don’t need to have regular INR blood tests. However there is
currently no equivalent test to monitor how well these medicines are working.
“Even though you won’t need to have the INR blood tests, if you switch from warfarin to one of the newer anticoagulants,
it’s still very important to have regular checks so your doctor can monitor your health.”
To help people find more information about the newer anticoagulant medicines available on the PBS and to make informed
choices in conjunction with advice from their health professional, NPS MedicineWise has published information on its
website at www.nps.org.au/anticoagulants
For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and
minerals) from a health professional, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local
call (calls from mobiles may cost more). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEST (excluding public holidays).