An irregular heartbeat, also known as atrial fibrillation, can lead to stroke or the formation of potentially life threatening clots. While the drug warfarin has been used for decades to reduce the risk of clots and stroke, doctors are reluctant to prescribe it.
It's time for Camille Engelbert's regular visit to the doctor. Six months ago, she became one of the millions of Americans on the blood thinner warfarin. While the drug can prevent potentially fatal blood clots from forming, it's a complex medication.
"Not only do a zillion factors affect it, but in fact, you have to control it within a very narrow range," says Dr. Jonathan Halperin.
Not enough, and clots can form. Too much can cause bleeding. This means monthly blood tests and a close watch on diet and close watch on diet and other drugs.
"I don't take anything without checking with Dr. Halperin or the office," Camille says.
Now, Dr. Jonathan Halperin is studying a new drug called ximelagatran that he dopes will do the job of warfarin without all the worries.
"It acts in a different place in the body's biochemistry of clotting to allow it to be used as a single does for all people," says Dr. Halperin.
A study in more than three thousand patients had encouraging results.
"Ximelagatran was at least effective as adjusted dose warfarin in preventing strokes and actually caused less bleeding than warfarin without the need for blood test monitoring or dose adjustment."
Dr. Halperin hopes that means more patients will get the treatment the need and thousands of strokes can be prevented.
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Dr. Jonathan Halperin