The first anti-clotting agent to be developed in almost 60 years has been approved by NICE for widespread use on the NHS in patients with atrial fibrillation.
Up until now, health providers decided at a local level whether or not to prescribe Pradaxa to patients with atrial fibrillation, leading to the drug being blacklisted by GPs across the country.
Atrial fibrillation is a condition where the heart’s chambers fail to beat in rhythm, causing blood to pool and form clots. The clot can be dislodged by blood and block a small blood vessel in the brain, eventually causing a stroke.
This condition affects about 1.2 million Brits and causes one in seven first time strokes, or 12,500 a year. Previously, patients with AF were limited to using warfarin, a blood-thinning agent based on rat poison.
But warfarin requires patients to undergo regular blood monitoring, since too much can result in fatal internal bleeding or stomach ulcers. Warfarin can also interact badly with other drugs and some foods.
A recent study of 18,000 people with atrial fibrillation found that taking 150mg of Pradaxa daily reduced the risk of stroke by between 30 and 39 per cent.
It is estimated that Pradaxa, also known as dabigatran, could prevent an extra 5,000 strokes a year, saving the NHS up to £59 million in the first year. Patients taking the capsules do not have to be constantly checked, can eat what they like and it is much easier to use with other medicines.
However, the twice daily pill is more expensive than warfarin. It costs £2.50 a day compared to £1 a day for warfarin, and patients have to take it for life. NHS managers have warned that it could simply add to the financial pressure currently facing NHS Trusts.
The increased cost of Pradaxa could mean that GPs still favour warfarin over the new drug in order to save money.
Drugs like Pradaxa are available to patients with private medical insurance even if they aren’t available on the NHS, so compare health insurance quotes online now.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012