London: A pill being hailed as the biggest breakthrough in stroke prevention in 50 years will go on sale today.
More than a million Britons could benefit from Pradaxa, which is up to a third more effective than warfarin, the gold-standard blood-thinner, when it comes to preventing strokes.
The 2.50 pounds once-a-day drug is the first of a new generation of anti-clotting medicines.
Pradaxa could vastly improve patients’ quality of life by allowing them to eat what they want without fear of upsetting the levels of medication in their blood and triggering a stroke or haemorrhage.
It would also remove the need for the frequent blood tests associated with warfarin, which is also used as rat poison.
From today, Pradaxa, which is also known as dabigatran etexilate, can be used to thin the blood in people with atrial fibrillation, in which erratic beating of the heart raises the odds of stroke five-fold.
In a trial with more than 18,000 sufferers of the condition, it was 35 per cent better than warfarin at preventing strokes.
Overall, around three-quarters of strokes were prevented. It also had fewer serious side effects – although some patients struggled with indigestion.
One of the biggest advantages will be its ease of use. Warfarin users have to undergo blood tests as often as every two days to ensure they don’t accidentally take too much or too little of it.
“This is a big leap forward. There are very few interactions with Pradaxa, so patients don’t have to be monitored every few weeks and they still get significant protection. It’s win-win,” the Daily Mail quoted Professor John Camm, of St George’s Hospital in London as saying.