This next story provides a stark example of how, even though it’s easy to get excited about innovations in medicine, we still have to be aware of any potential risks and act accordingly to avoid those risks.
For 60 years, persons suffering from atrial fibrillation, which is a condition involving an irregular heartbeat, had to make due with taking an oral drug known as warfarin. Developed in the 1950s, warfarin carried numerous risks associated with its use, including bleeding and brain hemorrhage. As such, anyone prescribed this drug was also required to submit to regular monitoring by a healthcare professional and make changes to their diet.
In 2010, the necessity of that drug all changed when the Food and Drug Administration approved Pradaxa. The Boehringer Ingelheim pill was introduced as an alternative to warfarin that would not require the same degree of monitoring or a huge change in lifestyle. A drug called Xarelto was developed for the same reasons. It was hoped that the taking of these drugs would mitigate the risk of stroke from atrial fibrillation.
Now, though, doctors are expressing their worries that Xarelto and Pradaxa could also have dangerous side effects, and some are proposing monitoring that would be similar to warfarin. Patients with kidney problems have been found to be at particular risk. The problem was brought to light by an Institution for Safe Medication Practices report that showed 542 Pradaxa-related deaths in 2011.
The makers, for their part, have said that doctors simply need time to learn about the best way to prescribe the new treatment.