Patterns of initiation of oral anticoagulants in patients with atrial fibrillation- quality and cost implications

Am J Med. 2014 Nov;127(11):1075-1082.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2014.05.013. Epub 2014 May 21.


Background: Dabigatran, rivaroxaban, and apixaban have been approved for use in patients with atrial fibrillation based upon randomized trials demonstrating their comparable or superior efficacy and safety relative to warfarin. Little is known about their adoption into clinical practice, whether utilization is consistent with the controlled trials on which their approval was based, and how their use has affected health spending for patients and insurers.

Methods: We used medical and prescription claims data from a large insurer to identify patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation who were prescribed an oral anticoagulant in 2010-2013. We plotted trends in medication initiation over time, assessed corresponding insurer and patient out-of-pocket spending, and evaluated the cumulative number and cost of anticoagulants. We identified predictors of novel anticoagulant initiation using multivariable logistic models. Finally, we estimated the difference in total drug expenditures over 6 months for patients initiating warfarin versus a novel anticoagulant.

Results: There were 6893 patients with atrial fibrillation that initiated an oral anticoagulant during the study period. By the end of the study period, novel anticoagulants accounted for 62% of new prescriptions and 98% of anticoagulant-related drug costs. Female sex, lower household income, and higher CHADS2, CHA2DS2-VASC, and HAS-BLED scores were significantly associated with lower odds of receiving a novel anticoagulant (P <.001 for each). Average combined patient and insurer anticoagulant spending in the first 6 months after initiation was more than $900 greater for patients initiating a novel anticoagulant.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates rapid adoption of novel anticoagulants into clinical practice, particularly among patients with lower CHADS2 and HAS-BLED scores, and high health care cost consequences. These findings provide important directions for future comparative and cost-effectiveness research.

Keywords: Factor Xa inhibitor; Novel anticoagulant; Patterns of use; Vitamin K antagonist; Warfarin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anticoagulants / economics*
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / drug therapy*
  • Benzimidazoles / economics
  • Benzimidazoles / therapeutic use
  • Dabigatran
  • Databases, Factual
  • Drug Utilization Review
  • Factor Xa Inhibitors / economics
  • Factor Xa Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Fees, Pharmaceutical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morpholines / economics
  • Morpholines / therapeutic use
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pyrazoles / economics
  • Pyrazoles / therapeutic use
  • Pyridones / economics
  • Pyridones / therapeutic use
  • Risk Assessment
  • Rivaroxaban
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Stroke / prevention & control
  • Thiophenes / economics
  • Thiophenes / therapeutic use
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vitamin K / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Warfarin / economics
  • Warfarin / therapeutic use
  • Young Adult
  • beta-Alanine / analogs & derivatives
  • beta-Alanine / economics
  • beta-Alanine / therapeutic use


  • Anticoagulants
  • Benzimidazoles
  • Factor Xa Inhibitors
  • Morpholines
  • Pyrazoles
  • Pyridones
  • Thiophenes
  • beta-Alanine
  • Vitamin K
  • apixaban
  • Warfarin
  • Rivaroxaban
  • Dabigatran