Randomized trials showed non-inferior or superior results of the non-vitamin-K-antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) compared with warfarin. The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness and safety of dabigatran (direct thrombin inhibitor) vs. acenocoumarol (vitamin K antagonist) in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) in daily clinical practice.Methods and results
In this observational study, we evaluated all consecutive patients who started anticoagulation because of AF in our outpatient clinic from 2010 to 2013. Data were collected from electronic patient charts. Primary outcomes were stroke or systemic embolism and major bleeding. Propensity score matching was applied to address the non-randomized design. In total, 920 consecutive AF patients were enrolled (442 dabigatran, 478 acenocoumarol), of which 2 × 383 were available for analysis after propensity score matching. Mean follow-up duration was 1.5 ± 0.56 year. The mean calculated stroke risk according to the CHA2DS2-VASc score was 3.5%/year in dabigatran vs. 3.7%/year acenocoumarol-treated patients. The actual incidence rate of stroke or systemic embolism was 0.8%/year [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.2–2.1] vs. 1.0%/year (95% CI: 0.4–2.1), respectively. Multivariable analysis confirmed this lower but non-significant risk in dabigatran vs. acenocoumarol after adjustment for the CHA2DS2-VASc score [hazard ratio (HR)dabigatran = 0.72, 95% CI: 0.20–2.63, P = 0.61]. According to the HAS-BLED score, the mean calculated bleeding risk was 1.7%/year in both groups. Actual incidence rate of major bleeding was 2.1%/year (95% CI: 1.0–3.8) in the dabigatran vs. 4.3%/year (95% CI: 2.9–6.2) in acenocoumarol. This over 50% reduction remained significant after adjustment for the HAS-BLED score (HRdabigatran = 0.45, 95% CI: 0.22–0.93, P = 0.031).Conclusion
In ‘real-world’ patients with AF, dabigatran appears to be as effective, but significantly safer than acenocoumarol.