Warfarin - The Rat Poison Drug
Why use Warfarin?Warfarin is a blood thinner, belonging to a class of drugs known as anti-coagulants, designed to keep blood thin and prevent clots. They make it hard for clots to form, which is a good thing if we are trying to prevent a stroke.
It is the most often prescribed drug prescribed for AF (atrial fibrillation), a type of irregular heartbeat, where upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of contracting efficiently, affecting millions of people.
Although AF is not necessarily life-threatening by itself, it can increase risk of blood clots which can break free to cause an ischemic stroke if the clot lodges in a brain artery, or pulmonary thrombosis if lodged in a lung artery.
However, there are down sides.
- Warfarin makes it difficult to stop a cut from bleeding.
- Warfarin increases risk of a hemmoragic stroke (bleeding in the brain).
- Waefarin increases risk of intestinal bleeding.
- Warfarin increases risk of an aneurysm where a blood vessel ruptures.
- Warfarin increases risk of uncontrolled bleeding due to a fall or accident.
The Warfarin StudyA new study shows that Warfarin (marketed under the name Coudamin), a heart drug taken by millions of people, increases dementia risk 300%.
This study, led by Dr. T. Jared Bunch, was conducted by the Intermountain Healthcare Clinical Pharmacist Anticoagulation Service, based in Salt Lake City, and examined the medical records of more than 10,000 patients.
Dr Bunch presented the study results at the Heart Rhythm Society's annual meeting in San Francisco.
The findings were:
- Patients with erratic warfarin levels have a higher risk of small clots, or small bleeds in the brain, causing dementia
- AF patients have three times the risk of dementia compared to those who take warfarin for other conditions
- Some foods, drinks, antibiotics and other drugs alter warfarin blood levels quickly. Regular blood tests and dose variations are essential to maintain the correct range
- The dementia risk increases to four times higher if the dose is not exactly right or requires frequent adjustment
History of Rat PoisonThe University of Wisconsin developed the drug as a rat poison in the 1940's. It kills rodents by invoking bleeding. Rats bleed to death after ingesting the poison.
Endo Laboratories began selling it for human use in the 1950's, but Warfarin proved to be a management problem for doctors and patients. Bad reactions to many foods and some drugs, especially antibiotics, are common with Warfarin treatment.
Warfarin Side EffectsAnother study by New England Journal of Medicine showed that warfarin accounts for double the emergency hospitalizations than any other drug, and is the leading cause of emergency room visits by seniors.
Apart from dementia, warfarin causes internal bleeding, stomach ulcers, kidney failure, and chronic cough. Hillary Clinton takes warfarin, and has suffered a severe cough while campaigning in 2016.
Of course, given that dementia is a common problem with seniors, and the risk for dementia is three to four times higher, more dementia means more missed or doubled-up doses of Warfarin, sometimes leading to death of the patient.
Prescription AlternativesThere are a few options:
- Apixaban (Eliquis)
- Dabigatran (Pradaxa)
- Edoxaban (Savaysa)
- Rivaroxaban (Xarelto)
The new medications have a reduced risk of bleeding, and wear off faster than warfarin, so appear to be safer.
However, dangerous bleeding while taking warfarin can be controlled with Vitamin K, or a combination of PCC (prothrombin complex concentrate) and fresh frozen plasma.
The amount of vitamin K in the diet, contained in leafy green vegetables, determines the effectiveness of Warfarin, so we must consistently eat the same foods. We can eat salads (and we should) but we have to eat them all the time with warfarin. This is not a problem for the new drugs because Vitamin K does not interfere with their operation. If we ate plenty of salads regularly throughout our life, we would probably never need warfarin!
Praxbind (idarucizumab) can be used in emergencies to reverse the anti-clotting effects of Pradaxa.
Other drugs to reverse blood-thinning are still in development.
Drugs and LifestyleThe new drugs are more convenient in that they do not require as many blood tests as warfarin, which requires testing at least monthly.
Apart from the inconvenience of regular blood testing, many people do not like getting stuck with a needle so often.
Interaction with Other MedicationsSome prescription drugs (and some supplements) interfere with warfarin, while others make warfarin work too well, which can cause a major bleeding problem.
There is an enormous list of medications that interact with warfarin. The newer blood thinners also have interactions, but nowhere near as many.
The new blood thinners have some benefits over warfarin, but if we manage our warfarin well, there is no need to change. However, if we have kidney failure or mechanical heart valves the new medications may not be safe.
Natural AlternativesWarfarin patients whose dosages often change should ask their doctor for alternative medications, as other blood thinners have fewer potential problems.
Aspirin is another blood-thinning medication given to those with cardiovascular problems, but again, can cause massive problems with internal bleeding, loss of eyesight from Macular Degeneration (bleeding and expansion of blood vessels in the retina), or hemmorhagic stroke (brain bleed).
Natural remedies work well for some people, and here are a few known to work:
- Ginkgo Biloba
- Garlic Extract
- Co Enzyme Q10
- Foods such as Cayenne pepper, fish oil, garlic
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Open2Study, Australia - Food, Nutrition and Your Health
RMIT University, Australia - Foundations of Psychology
Swinburne University of Technology, Australia - Chemistry - Building Blocks of the World
University of Washington, USA - Energy, Diet and Weight
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA - Health Issues for Aging Populations
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA - International Nutrition
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA - Methods in Biostatistics I
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA - Methods in Biostatistics II
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA - Principles of Human Nutrition
TUFTS University, USA - Nutrition and Medicine
TUFTS University, USA - Lipids/Cardiovascular Disease I and Lipids/Cardiovascular Disease II
Technical Learning College, USA - Western Herbology, Identification, Formulas
Bath University, England - Inside Cancer
WebMD Education - The Link Between Stroke and Atrial Fibrillation
Leiden University Medical Center, Netherlands - Anatomy of the Abdomen and Pelvis
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Updated 24th December 2016, Copyright © 1999-2017 Brenton Wight and BJ & HJ Wight trading as Lean Machine abn 55293601285