The New Oral Anticoagulants:

A Challenge for Hospital Formularies

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Geno J. Merli, MD, FACP, FHM, FSVM

Table of Contents

Hospital Practice:

Volume 40 No. 3



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DOI: 10.3810/hp.2012.08.996

Over the past 60 years, clinicians have used vitamin K antagonists, primarily warfarin, as the sole oral anticoagulants for managing a variety of thrombotic disorders. Warfarin, which requires frequent monitoring, has a variable dose response, a narrow therapeutic index, and numerous drug and dietary interactions. However, intravenous and subcutaneous agents, such as unfractionated heparin, low-molecular-weight heparin, direct thrombin inhibitors, and pentasaccharide, have been introduced over the past 30 years for managing thromboembolic disorders.

Recently, 5 new oral anticoagulants, dabigatran, rivaroxaban, apixaban, endoxaban, and betrixaban, have been introduced into clinical trials. Apixaban, rivaroxaban, endoxaban, and betrixaban are specific direct inhibitors of factor Xa, while dabigatran inhibits factor IIa. These drugs have a pharmacological profile that does not require monitoring in order to adjust therapy, which is the mainstay of warfarin management. In addition, these new medications have not shown any major issues regarding food interactions; rather, they demonstrate the potential for limited drug–drug interactions due to their limited metabolism through the cytochrome P450 system. This unique pharmacokinetic profile may provide clinicians with a new era of managing thromboembolic disorders.

Two of these agents, dabigatran and rivaroxaban, have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for stroke prevention in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (AF); in addition, rivaroxaban can be used in the prevention of venous thromboembolism (VTE) in total hip and knee arthroplasty during the acute and extended periods of risk. However, the challenge for hospital formularies will be the appropriate use and management of these new medications as they become integrated into outpatient care. In order to better understand the issues that pharmacy and therapeutics committees will encounter, a review of the 2 FDA-approved oral anticoagulants will be evaluated.