A recent study was undertaken by the ISMP, or Institute for Safe Medication Practices, which proved anticoagulant medications to be more dangerous than narcotics like OxyContin. The medications, better known as blood thinners, were the most likely to cause trips to the emergency room, as well as those trips which turned into extended hospital stays or admittance.
The Statistical Proof
In fact, 48.8% of all adverse reactions reported to the CDC last year resulted in the patient being admitted to the hospital for a stay of one or more days. Examples of anticoagulant medications include Xarelto, warfarin, and Pradaxa.
According to last year’s data, provided by the CDC (Center for Disease Control), there were over 22,000 serious injuries reported relating to blood thinning medications. Over 3,000 of these were deaths.
This information contains only what was reported, however, and data from the CDC and FDA rely on voluntary reporting. Due to this, estimations of the real problem are thought to be more than ten times the numbers above.
These statistics give us a more thorough understanding of the vast number of recent Xarelto lawsuits filed. It is reminiscent of the 2014 Pradaxa suit which cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.
How Blood Thinners Work
Anticoagulants are used to dissuade the formation of blood clots in elevated risk individuals. This is vital, because a blood clot can prove lethal. Examples of diseases arising from the formation of one or more clots include:
- Pulmonary Embolism
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib)
Individuals who are at an elevated risk of developing a blood clot include:
- Post-surgical patients (specifically those who have undergone joint replacement)
- People practicing sedentary lifestyles
- Pregnant women, or those who have delivered a baby in the last year
- Individuals who take hormonal birth control
- Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy
- Anyone who has had a previous blood clot or family history of blood clots
- The elderly, smokers, and overweight individuals
Why This Can Prove Lethal in Wrong Circumstances
The main issue is that there are times when your body needs blood to clot. An example is when you cut yourself. Your body starts a multi-step process to stop the bleeding (coagulation cascade), in which platelets play a vital role.
People on blood thinners have an interruption in this normal process, however. The blood is prevented from clotting properly, which, while useful to a degree in some patients, poses a serious risk simultaneously.
Some blood thinners have ways to reverse the effects in the event a person receives an injury where healthy clotting capabilities are necessary.
Unfortunately, not all blood thinners possess such “antidotes,” so those taking the medications are at severe risk of complications due to increased bleeding.
How to Minimize the Risks Associated with Anticoagulant Medications
With the obvious dangerous associated with use of anticoagulant medications, it is important for patients to know how they can minimize these dangers. Here is a short but useful list of important items which all patients utilizing blood thinners should be aware of.
Read the prescription label thoroughly before beginning a new anticoagulant, as well as after each new prescription refill – this last is important because information changes sporadically, and you’ll want to be kept informed.
Know which foods and drinks may interact with your medications. This includes ALWAYS avoiding alcohol.
Speak with your doctor or pharmacist about any questions you may have. Remember that there is no such thing as a stupid question! Below are some ideas on questions you could ask, if you are unsure.
Tell others about the risks associated with anticoagulant medications, as many do not know the real facts about potential side effects.
A crucial step in minimizing the risks is staying informed about your medication and the potential side effects. There are many ways to find information, such as articles online, prescription labeling, and videos. The best way, however, is to speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
These are some important questions you may want to ask before taking your anticoagulant prescription:
- Why am I being prescribed this medication?
- What, specifically, puts me at risk for blood clots?
- Is there a way to reverse the effects should I become injured? If not, is there an alternative medication I could use that does have an “antidote”?
- Will I be on this medication short term or long term?
- What foods or drinks should be avoided?
- What are the most common side effects?
- What are signs of a serious complication that I should be aware of?