Novel oral anticoagulants for stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation: focus on apixaban

Tatjana S Potpara, Marija M Polovina, Marina M Licina, Radan M Stojanovic, Milica S Prostran, Gregory Y H Lip
Advances in Therapy 2012, 29 (6): 491-507
Stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation (AF) has been challenging over decades, mostly due to a number of difficulties associated with oral vitamin K antagonists (VKAs), which have been the most effective stroke prevention treatment for a long time. The oral direct thrombin inhibitors (e.g., dabigatran) and oral direct inhibitors of factor Xa (e.g., rivaroxaban, apixaban) have emerged recently as an alternative to VKAs for stroke prevention in AF. These drugs act rapidly, and have a predictable and stable dose-related anticoagulant effect with a few clinically relevant drug-drug interactions. The novel oral anticoagulants are used in fixed doses with no need for regular laboratory monitoring of anticoagulation intensity. However, each of these drugs has distinct pharmacological properties that could influence optimal use in clinical practice. The following phase 3 randomized trials with novel oral anticoagulants versus warfarin for stroke prevention in AF have been completed: the Randomized Evaluation of Long-term Anticoagulant therapy (RE-LY) trial with dabigatran, the Rivaroxaban Once daily oral direct Factor Xa inhibition Compared with vitamin K antagonism for prevention of stroke and Embolism Trial in Atrial Fibrillation (ROCKET-AF) trial with rivaroxaban, and the Apixaban for Reduction of Stroke and Other Thromboembolism Events in Atrial Fibrillation (ARISTOTLE) trial with apixaban. Moreover, the Apixaban Versus Acetylsalicylic Acid to prevent Strokes (AVERROES) trial included patients with AF who have failed or were unsuitable for warfarin, and compared apixaban versus aspirin for stroke prevention in AF. Overall, apixaban has two large trials for stroke prevention in AF showing benefits not only over warfarin, but also over aspirin among those patients who have failed or refused warfarin. In the ARISTOTLE trial, apixaban was superior to warfarin in the reduction of stroke or systemic embolism, major bleeding, intracranial hemorrhage, and all-cause mortality, with a similar reduction in the rate of ischemic stroke and better tolerability. When compared with aspirin in the AVERROES trial, apixaban was associated with more effective reduction of stroke, a similar risk of major bleeding, and better tolerability. In this review article, the authors summarize the current knowledge on novel oral anticoagulants and discuss the clinical aspects of their use for stroke prevention in AF, with particular emphasis on apixaban.

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