Efficacy and Safety of Therapeutic-Dose Heparin vs Standard Prophylactic or Intermediate-Dose Heparins for Thromboprophylaxis in High-risk Hospitalized Patients With COVID-19: The HEP-COVID Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA Intern Med. 2021 Oct 7;e216203. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.6203. Online ahead of print.


Importance: Hospitalized patients with COVID-19 are at risk for venous and arterial thromboembolism and death. Optimal thromboprophylaxis dosing in high-risk patients is unknown.

Objective: To evaluate the effects of therapeutic-dose low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) vs institutional standard prophylactic or intermediate-dose heparins for thromboprophylaxis in high-risk hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

Design, setting, and participants: The HEP-COVID multicenter randomized clinical trial recruited hospitalized adult patients with COVID-19 with D-dimer levels more than 4 times the upper limit of normal or sepsis-induced coagulopathy score of 4 or greater from May 8, 2020, through May 14, 2021, at 12 academic centers in the US.

Interventions: Patients were randomized to institutional standard prophylactic or intermediate-dose LMWH or unfractionated heparin vs therapeutic-dose enoxaparin, 1 mg/kg subcutaneous, twice daily if creatinine clearance was 30 mL/min/1.73 m2 or greater (0.5 mg/kg twice daily if creatinine clearance was 15-29 mL/min/1.73 m2) throughout hospitalization. Patients were stratified at the time of randomization based on intensive care unit (ICU) or non-ICU status.

Main outcomes and measures: The primary efficacy outcome was venous thromboembolism (VTE), arterial thromboembolism (ATE), or death from any cause, and the principal safety outcome was major bleeding at 30 ± 2 days. Data were collected and adjudicated locally by blinded investigators via imaging, laboratory, and health record data.

Results: Of 257 patients randomized, 253 were included in the analysis (mean [SD] age, 66.7 [14.0] years; men, 136 [53.8%]; women, 117 [46.2%]); 249 patients (98.4%) met inclusion criteria based on D-dimer elevation and 83 patients (32.8%) were stratified as ICU-level care. There were 124 patients (49%) in the standard-dose vs 129 patients (51%) in the therapeutic-dose group. The primary efficacy outcome was met in 52 of 124 patients (41.9%) (28.2% VTE, 3.2% ATE, 25.0% death) with standard-dose heparins vs 37 of 129 patients (28.7%) (11.7% VTE, 3.2% ATE, 19.4% death) with therapeutic-dose LMWH (relative risk [RR], 0.68; 95% CI, 0.49-0.96; P = .03), including a reduction in thromboembolism (29.0% vs 10.9%; RR, 0.37; 95% CI, 0.21-0.66; P < .001). The incidence of major bleeding was 1.6% with standard-dose vs 4.7% with therapeutic-dose heparins (RR, 2.88; 95% CI, 0.59-14.02; P = .17). The primary efficacy outcome was reduced in non-ICU patients (36.1% vs 16.7%; RR, 0.46; 95% CI, 0.27-0.81; P = .004) but not ICU patients (55.3% vs 51.1%; RR, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.62-1.39; P = .71).

Conclusions and relevance: In this randomized clinical trial, therapeutic-dose LMWH reduced major thromboembolism and death compared with institutional standard heparin thromboprophylaxis among inpatients with COVID-19 with very elevated D-dimer levels. The treatment effect was not seen in ICU patients.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04401293.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT04401293