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Summary

Aim

Anticoagulant prophylaxis with vitamin K antagonists (such as warfarin) is effective in reducing the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). New oral anticoagulants have emerged as potential alternatives to traditional oral agents. The purpose of this review was to summarise the effectiveness and safety of rivaroxaban, dabigatran and apixaban in stroke prevention in patients with AF in phase III trials, evaluate their cost-effectiveness and consider the implications for primary care.

Methodology

A literature search was performed between 2007 and 2012, selecting all phase III trials (ROCKET AF, RE-LY and ARISTOTLE) of new oral anticoagulants and relevant cost–benefit studies.

Results

Evidence shows that all three agents are at least as effective as warfarin in the prevention of stroke and systemic emboli, with similar safety profiles. Cost–benefit studies of rivaroxaban and dabigatran further confirm their potential use as alternatives to warfarin in clinical practice. These observations may allow stratification of the general practice AF population, to help prioritise which patients may benefit from receiving a new oral anticoagulant.

Conclusion

The clinical and economic benefits of the new oral anticoagulants, along with appropriate risk stratification, may enable a higher number of patients with AF to receive effective and convenient prophylaxis for stroke prevention.