There’s more to Pradaxa’s problems than meets the eye

By Wendy Lipworth, University of Sydney and Ian Kerridge, University of Sydney

Pharmaceutical companies don’t have a particularly good reputation, for some very good reasons. But we can’t let suspicions about the motives of such companies cloud our assessments of drug safety because patients may also suffer.

People with abnormal heart rhythms and other diseases that cause blood clots (thromboses) often require blood-thinning (anticoagulation) medications. For many decades, warfarin has been the most widely used such drug but it’s associated with a risk of bleeding (including fatal haemorrhage) and requires regular blood tests to monitor safety and efficacy.

So the advent of new oral anticoagulant drugs was heralded as a major advance by both patients and clinicians – principally on the grounds that they appeared as effective as warfarin, may be associated with a lower risk of serious bleeding, and are cost-effective because patients don’t need ongoing blood monitoring.

For these reasons, a number of these new drugs, including dabigatran (Pradaxa) and rivaroxaban (Xarelto) were fast-tracked through the regulatory approval processes in the United States and in New Zealand. Continue reading

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