Drug therapy in anticoagulation: which drug for which patient?

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Four non-vitamin K oral anticoagulants (NOACs) are now licensed and available in the UK, offering unprecedented choices in anticoagulant therapy for clinicians and patients. NOACs have many clear benefits over warfarin, the most striking being the reduction in intracranial haemorrhage. However, a number of uncertainties remain: their efficacy in certain situations, utility of drug assays, significance of drug interactions and management of bleeding. In the absence of any direct comparative trials, it is not clear that any of the NOACs is significantly better than the others in any of the licensed indications. The differential activities, pharmacokinetics, metabolism, excretion and side effects of the agents should be considered when selecting the most appropriate anticoagulant. In this article, we discuss how, with careful selection for the relevant indication, NOACs can simplify therapy while improving outcomes. We aim to provide clinicians with the information needed to select the most suitable anticoagulant drug for an individual patient in a given situation.

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