A new drug is just as effective as the current standard treatment for patients with irregular heartbeats but is easier to take, according to research.
Scientists say the new drug, rivaroxaban, is just as good as warfarin at preventing blood clots and lowering the risk of stroke for people with atrial fibrillation.
But tests suggest it has fewer side-effects, such as a risk of fatal bleeding on the brain, and is easier to take. The new drug is not affected by diet and other medication as much as warfarin is, so patients do not need such close monitoring by doctors to ensure they are receiving the correct dosage.
The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, follow studies of 14,000 patients with atrial fibrillation carried out by researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the Duke University in North Carolina.
Professor Keith Fox, a Professor at the University of Edinburgh, said: "We know that about a third of patients eligible for warfarin are not currently receiving it. This may be because they are too frail and may not be able to manage taking the drug appropriately, with the need for blood tests and dosage levels to be monitored closely. This study shows that an alternative drug for patients with irregular heart beats is just as effective while also easier to prescribe and take."
Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This important study adds rivaroxaban to the increasing list of new drugs that seem to be at least as good as warfarin - the current standard therapy to prevent strokes in people with atrial fibrillation.
“An additional advantage is that they do not require the close monitoring that warfarin does. However, the rate at which these new drugs are introduced to patients will be determined by the extent to which regulators believe their benefits justify their additional cost."