Heparin, fondaparinux and vitamin K antagonists (VKAs) are effective for the prevention and treatment of venous thromboembolism. VKAs reduce by almost 60% the rate of cardioembolic complications in patients with atrial fibrillation. The risk for bleeding and the inconvenience for laboratory monitoring, dose adjustment and drug or food interactions are the main limits for VKAs while parenteral administration is the main limit for heparin and fondaparinux. New oral anticoagulants with more predictable anticoagulant response and no need for laboratory monitoring have been shown to be effective for the prevention and treatment of venous thromboembolism and for the prevention of stroke and systemic embolism in patients with atrial fibrillation. The pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profile of the new agents differ for mechanisms of action - mainly anti Xa and one antithrombin agent- bioavailability, half life, renal or live clearance. Drug interactions have been described with the new agents and inhibitors or inducers of P-gp or CYP3A4. Overall, in the prevention of venous thromboembolism after major elective orthopaedic surgery dabigatran was shown to be non-inferior, rivaroxaban and apixaban to be superior to enoxaparin. Both, rivaroxaban and dabigatran were shown to be non-inferior to low-molecular weight heparin and VKAs for the treatment of venous thromboembolism. Dabigatran 150mg twice daily reduced the incidence of both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation respect to warfarin. In these patients rivaroxaban and apixaban reduced the incidence of hemorrhagic stroke with a similar incidence of ischemic stroke. No bleeding concern emerged with the new anticoagulant agents in this indication.
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