Direct Oral Anticoagulants Versus Warfarin Across the Spectrum of Kidney Function: Patient-Level Network Meta-Analyses From COMBINE AF

Circulation. 2023 Jun 6;147(23):1748-1757. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.122.062752. Epub 2023 Apr 12.


Background: There is uncertainty surrounding the use of direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) in patients with kidney dysfunction.

Methods: Using the COMBINE AF (A Collaboration Between Multiple Institutions to Better Investigate Non-Vitamin K Antagonist Oral Anticoagulant Use in Atrial Fibrillation) database (data from RE-LY [Randomized Evaluation of Long-term Anticoagulation Therapy], ROCKET AF [Rivaroxaban Once Daily Oral Direct Factor Xa Inhibition Compared With Vitamin K Antagonism for Prevention of Stroke and Embolism Trial in Atrial Fibrillation], ARISTOTLE [Apixaban for Reduction in Stroke and Other Thromboembolic Events in Atrial Fibrillation], and ENGAGE AF-TIMI 48 [Effective Anticoagulation With Factor Xa Next Generation in Atrial Fibrillation-Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction 48]), we performed an individual patient-level network meta-analysis to evaluate the safety and efficacy of DOACs versus warfarin across continuous creatinine clearance (CrCl). A multivariable Cox model including treatment-by-CrCl interaction with random effects was fitted to estimate hazard ratios for paired treatment strategies (standard-dose DOAC, lower-dose DOAC, and warfarin). Outcomes included stroke and systemic embolism (S/SE), major bleeding, intracranial hemorrhage (ICH), and death.

Results: Among 71 683 patients (mean age, 70.6±9.4 years; 37.3% female; median follow-up, 23.1 months), the mean CrCl was 75.5±30.5 mL/min. The incidence of S/SE, major bleeding, ICH, and death increased significantly with worsening kidney function. Across continuous CrCl values down to 25 mL/min, the hazard of major bleeding did not change for patients randomized to standard-dose DOACs compared with those randomized to warfarin (Pinteraction=0.61). Compared with warfarin, standard-dose DOAC use resulted in a significantly lower hazard of ICH at CrCl values <122 mL/min, with a trend for increased safety with DOAC as CrCl decreased (6.2% decrease in hazard ratio per 10-mL/min decrease in CrCl; Pinteraction=0.08). Compared with warfarin, standard-dose DOAC use resulted in a significantly lower hazard of S/SE with CrCl <87 mL/min, with a significant treatment-by-CrCl effect (4.8% decrease in hazard ratio per 10-mL/min decrease in CrCl; Pinteraction=0.01). The hazard of death was significantly lower with standard-dose DOACs for patients with CrCl <77 mL/min, with a trend toward increasing benefit with lower CrCl (2.1% decrease in hazard ratio per 10-mL/min decrease in CrCl; Pinteraction=0.08). Use of lower-dose rather than standard-dose DOACs was not associated with a significant difference in incident bleeding or ICH in patients with reduced kidney function but was associated with a higher incidence4 of death and S/SE.

Conclusions: Standard-dose DOACs are safer and more effective than warfarin down to a CrCl of at least 25 mL/min. Lower-dose DOACs do not significantly lower the incidence of bleeding or ICH compared with standard-dose DOACs but are associated with a higher incidence of S/SE and death. These findings support the use of standard-dose DOACs over warfarin in patients with kidney dysfunction.

Keywords: anticoagulants; atrial fibrillation; kidney.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / complications
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / diagnosis
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / drug therapy
  • Embolism* / epidemiology
  • Factor Xa
  • Female
  • Hemorrhage / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Hemorrhages / chemically induced
  • Kidney
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Network Meta-Analysis
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Stroke* / epidemiology
  • Warfarin / adverse effects


  • Warfarin
  • Factor Xa
  • Anticoagulants