Ximelagatran: Oral direct thrombin inhibition as anticoagulant therapy in atrial fibrillation

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Atrial fibrillation (AF) causes 50,000 to 100,000 ischemic strokes annually in the U.S., most of which could be prevented by oral anticoagulant treatment of the highest-risk patients. The greatest barrier to such treatment is the narrow therapeutic index of the vitamin K antagonists ([VKAs]: warfarin and related coumarin derivatives), the only oral anticoagulant agents currently available. Safe and effective treatment with the VKAs requires careful monitoring, because they interact with many other drugs and foods, and their anticoagulant action is unpredictable. Besides vitamin K, candidate targets for anticoagulant therapy include thrombin, a key prothrombotic mediator. Ximelagatran, the oral direct thrombin inhibitor at the most advanced stage of clinical development, is rapidly absorbed and bioconverted to its active moiety, melagatran--a potent, competitive inhibitor of both free and clot-bound thrombin. Two large clinical trials have demonstrated that fixed-dose oral ximelagatran, 36 mg twice daily, administered without coagulation monitoring, prevents stroke and systemic embolic events in patients with nonvalvular AF as effectively as well-controlled, adjusted-dose warfarin (international normalized ratio 2.0 to 3.0). The overall risk of bleeding was lower with ximelagatran than warfarin, although differences in rates of major hemorrhage were not statistically significant. Elevation of serum alanine aminotransferase levels above 3× the upper limit of normal occurred in approximately 6% of ximelagatran-treated patients but typically returned toward pretreatment levels without associated symptoms. In terms of preventing thromboembolism without hemorrhage, ximelagatran may have a more favorable benefit:risk profile than warfarin for patients with AF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 4 Jan 2005


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