What is known and objective: Patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF) are at risk for stroke and systemic embolism (SSE), and this risk can be decreased with adjusted-dose warfarin. Warfarin, however, is cumbersome to use and requires at least monthly laboratory monitoring. Three new oral anticoagulants (NOACs) that are less cumbersome have been approved as alternatives to warfarin for SSE prevention in NVAF. Selecting a patient-specific alternative to warfarin can be confusing for pharmacists and clinicians. This review details clinical parameters to consider when choosing an alternative to warfarin for a specific patient and summarizes them in a Comparison Table. Methods: Using available clinical evidence from pivotal trials, US FDA- and Health Canada-approved prescribing information and post-marketing observations, this review provides a summary of important clinical variables for clinicians to consider when choosing patient-centred anticoagulant alternatives to warfarin for prevention of SSE in NVAF. Results and discussion: Dabigatran, rivaroxaban and apixaban are approved alternatives to warfarin for primary and secondary prevention of SSE in patients with NVAF. Additionally, apixaban has also been compared to aspirin in patients with NVAF that were considered unsuitable for vitamin K antagonist therapy. Prospective consideration of age, weight, hepatic function, renal function and drug interactions are important clinical parameters to consider when selecting patient-centred alternatives to adjusted-dose warfarin. What is new and conclusion: Several NOACs are now alternatives to warfarin for SSE prevention in NVAF but require providers to make a shift in strategy from tailoring anticoagulant dose based on anticoagulant effect to selection of the anticoagulant based on clinical variables that affect anticoagulant exposure. These variables and their interactions should be considered in choosing an alternative to warfarin and are summarized in a simple table comparing the new anticoagulants.
- Atrial fibrillation
- Drug information
- Medication prescribing practices
- New oral anticoagulant