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28.11.2016 | Ausgabe 3/2017 Open Access

Journal of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis 3/2017

Vitamin K antagonists: relative strengths and weaknesses vs. direct oral anticoagulants for stroke prevention in patients with atrial fibrillation

Journal of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis > Ausgabe 3/2017
Andreas Zirlik, Christoph Bode
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s11239-016-1446-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


Vitamin K antagonists (VKAs) have been the mainstay of anticoagulation therapy for more than 50 years. VKAs are mainly used for the prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) and the treatment and secondary prevention of venous thromboembolism. In the past 5 years, four new agents—the direct factor Xa inhibitors apixaban, edoxaban and rivaroxaban and the direct thrombin inhibitor dabigatran [collectively known as direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) or non-VKA oral anticoagulants]—have been approved for these and other indications. Despite these new treatment options, the VKA warfarin currently remains the most frequently prescribed oral anticoagulant. The availability of DOACs provides an alternative management option for patients with AF, especially when the treating physician is hesitant to prescribe a VKA owing to associated limitations, such as food and drug interactions, and concerns about bleeding complications. Currently available real-world evidence shows that DOACs have similar or improved effectiveness and safety outcomes compared with warfarin. Treatment decisions on which DOAC is best suited for which patient to maximize safety and effectiveness should take into account not only clinically relevant patient characteristics but also patient preference. This article reviews and highlights real and perceived implications of VKAs for the prevention of stroke in patients with non-valvular AF, with specific reference to their strengths and weaknesses compared with DOACs.

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