Treatments

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And now let's talk about a new drug to prevent strokes. NPR's Nancy Shute has more on a blood thinner that's easier to use than some older drugs.

NANCY SHUTE: More than two million Americans have atrial fibrillation, a form of irregular heartbeat that can lead to stroke. Blood can pool in the heart, forming clots when the heart's not pumping efficiently. Taking blood thinner medication reduces that risk.

Warfarin, the most commonly used blood thinner, is hard for doctors to dose safely. It reacts with food and other drugs and people respond to it differently. So people taking warfarin need to be monitored closely. Drug makers have been eager to come up with anti-clotting drugs that don't need monitoring.

A study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine found that one of these new drugs, called rivaroxaban, is as good as Warfarin at preventing strokes. It also says rivaroxaban is easier to use than the older medications. All these blood thinners can cause excessive bleeding. But this study found the new drug was no more risky than the old one.

Nancy Shute, NPR News.

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