Several direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs), including direct thrombin and factor Xa inhibitors, have been approved as alternatives to vitamin K antagonist anticoagulants. As with any anticoagulant, DOAC use carries a risk of bleeding. In patients with major bleeding or needing urgent surgery, reversal of DOAC anticoagulation may be required, presenting a clinical challenge. The optimal strategy for DOAC reversal is being refined, and may include use of hemostatic agents such as prothrombin complex concentrates (PCCs; a source of concentrated clotting factors), or DOAC-specific antidotes (which bind their target DOAC to abrogate its activity). Though promising, most specific antidotes are still in development.
Preclinical animal research is the key to establishing the efficacy and safety of potential reversal agents. Here, we summarize published preclinical animal studies on reversal of DOAC anticoagulation. These studies (n = 26) were identified via a PubMed search, and used rodent, rabbit, pig, and non-human primate models. The larger of these animals have the advantages of similar blood volume/hemodynamics to humans, and can be used to model polytrauma. We find that in addition to varied species being used, there is variability in the models and assays used between studies; we suggest that blood loss (bleeding volume) is the most clinically relevant measure of DOAC anticoagulation-related bleeding and its reversal.
The studies covered indicate that both PCCs and specific reversal agents have the potential to be used as part of a clinical strategy for DOAC reversal. For the future, we advocate the development and use of standardized, clinically, and pharmacologically relevant animal models to study novel DOAC reversal strategies.