Importance of the field: Warfarin is the only oral anticoagulant recommended for the prevention of ischemic stroke in atrial fibrillation. A newer and safer anticoagulant is needed because of increased hemorrhagic risks with warfarin, difficult-to-maintain therapeutic levels, and higher drug to drug and food interactions.
Areas covered in this review: Dabigatran etexilate is a new, effective, reversible, rapid-acting, oral direct inhibitor of thrombin. This review focuses on the results of major Phase II and III trials conducted to evaluate the use of dabigatran in prevention of stroke in atrial fibrillation.
What the reader will gain: The objective of this paper is to discuss the use of dabigatran for prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation and to review its major advantages and disadvantages over warfarin.
Take home message: After the recent publication of Phase III trial RE-LY (randomized evaluation of long-term anticoagulation therapy), the use of dabigatran in atrial fibrillation is more clearly defined. A higher dose of dabigatran may be beneficial in patients who have recurrent ischemic events, despite therapeutic levels of warfarin. A lower dose is potentially safer than warfarin because of fewer hemorrhagic complications. Disadvantages include twice-daily dosing, dyspepsia and higher cost.