Monday, August 31, 2009

New drug 'spectacular' at preventing strokes: study

From the Montreal Gazette:
For the first time since the blood thinner warfarin was introduced more than half a century ago, Canadian researchers are reporting that a new drug is safer and more effective at reducing the risk of stroke in high-risk patients.

An estimated 250,000 Canadians suffer from atrial fibrillation, or AF, a potentially life-threatening heart rhythm disorder that causes the heart to quiver and beat chaotically. Blood can pool in the upper chambers of the heart, allowing clots to form and travel up to the arteries that feed the brain, creating a stroke. AF patients are at five times greater risk of developing stroke, and twice as likely to die from one, than patients without the condition.

The disorder affects about three per cent of the population over age 45, and about six per cent over age 65, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Warfarin has been the drug of choice for reducing stroke risk in atrial fibrillation for more than 20 years. But it increases the risk of major bleeding, sometimes into the brain. About half the patients who might benefit can't take it, "and when they do try and take it, they often end up having to stop it for a variety of reasons," says Dr. Stuart Connolly, a professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton. ...more

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