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Format: 04/20/2014
Format: 04/20/2014

News

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: New blood thinner sought by experts

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

By Pohla Smith

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Three years ago, when she was 57, Diana Miller-Flanagin of Portersville had a couple of mini-strokes.

"That's when they found my heart goes into atrial fibrillation and that it was the cause of the mini-strokes," she said. A-fib, as it's commonly called, is a condition in which rapid, irregular beating of the muscular wall of the heart causes blood to thicken and clot within the heart chambers.

Her doctors at Allegheny General Hospital put her on an anticoagulant, or blood thinner, which also is used to treat deep vein thrombosis (blood clots deep in the body) and pulmonary embolism (blockage in a lung artery).

Mrs. Miller-Flanagin has taken both Coumadin and, more recently, the generic version, warfarin sodium. Both come in pill form.

"I think the Coumadin regulated [the blood] a little better," she said, adding that she didn't think its higher cost was worth it. Both drugs require monitoring, as you don't want the blood to be too quick to clot, which could cause a blockage in a blood vessel, or too slow to clot, which can lead to excessive bleeding.

"I just take it once a day, but I take different amounts at different times, different doses depending on the thickness or thinness of my blood," Mrs. Miller-Flanagin said. "At the beginning, I had tests done twice a week, then weekly. Now I go every three weeks.

"They've had a very difficult time getting my blood to regulate.

"If my blood is too thin I bruise very easy," Mrs. Miller-Flanagin added. "I have a little lap dog, and I get bruises where his foot goes."

She also noted that with either warfarin or Coumadin, "you have to be very careful on your diet."

The two blood thinners work against vitamin K, which your liver uses to make blood-clotting proteins. That doesn't mean the patient should cut back on foods with vitamin K, but it does mean he or she should maintain a consistent intake of K-rich foods.

For Mrs. Miller-Flanagin that means eating three salads a week.

"It would be nice if they came out with something where I could eat what I want," she said.

The scientists are trying.

West Penn Hospital, for example, hematologist Dr. Margaret Kennedy and other researchers are part of a worldwide clinical trial of a new anticoagulant called rivaroxaban.

The New England Journal of Medicine this month published an article on a clinical study of still another alternative to warfarin called dabigatran.

"There are several different ones," said Dr. Kennedy, medical director of the Anticoagulation Management Center at West Penn and associate director of the hospital's Hemostasis and Thrombosis Laboratory.

But Dr. Kennedy said she doubts that any of the drugs now being tested will ever totally replace Coumadin/warfarin.

 

To read more, visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette web site.
 

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