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New developments in anticoagulants: Past, present and future
24 October 2016
Accepted after major revision: 09 January 2017
11 November 2017 (online)
Thrombosis is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, and anticoagulants are the mainstay of its prevention and treatment. Starting with unfractionated heparin (UFH) and vitamin K antagonists (VKAs) such as warfarin, the choices of anticoagulants have exploded in the past 20 years. With over 90% subcutaneous bioavailability, no need for coagulation monitoring and dose adjustment, and a lower risk of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, low-molecular-weight heparin and fondaparinux have replaced UFH for prevention and initial treatment of venous thromboembolism and for secondary prevention in cancer patients. In patients undergoing percutaneous interventions, bivalirudin is often used instead of UFH. Oral anticoagulation therapy has advanced with the introduction of the non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs), which include dabigatran, rivaroxaban, apixaban and edoxaban. With efficacy at least equal to that of VKAs but with greater safety and convenience, the NOACs are now replacing VKAs for many indications. This paper a) highlights these advances, b) outlines how specific reversal agents for the NOACs will enhance their safety, c) reviews some of the ongoing trials with the NOACs, and d) describes the inhibitors of factor XII and XI that are under investigation as anticoagulants.
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