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Drug Saf. 2005;28(4):333-49.

Safety profile of different low-molecular weight heparins used at therapeutic dose.

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Laboratoire d'Hématologie, Hôpital Charles Foix (University Hospital of Paris), Ivry/Seine, France.


Low-molecular weight heparins (LMWHs) have been shown to be as safe and effective as unfractionated heparin (UFH) for the treatment of acute venous thrombosis and non-life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Different reports have shown that LMWHs may also be used to treat patients with unstable angina or non-Q-wave infarction. The safety of LMWHs used at therapeutic dose has been widely studied in pivotal clinical trials and analysed in several meta-analyses. However, despite the wide development and use of LMWHs, several issues regarding the safety and optimal use of LMWHs remain unanswered. The main adverse effect of LMWHs is bleeding and it is uncertain whether a weight-adjusted dosage regimen without laboratory monitoring can be used in patients with a high risk of bleeding, such as patients with renal failure, elderly patients, obese patients or pregnant women. These patients are usually excluded from clinical trials and only a few studies, not sufficiently powered to estimate efficacy and safety, have been carried out in these special populations. Most of the available data comes from pharmacokinetic or population pharmacodynamic studies or clinical reports. Results in patients with renal impairment who are not undergoing haemodialysis suggest that a reduction in calculated creatinine clearance levels is associated with an increased risk of accumulation of anti-Xa activity, the extent of which differs depending on the individual LMWH and the extent to which the compound is cleared by the kidney. The limited data available regarding the use of therapeutic doses of LMWHs in obese patients suggest that there is no need to cap the dose at a maximal allowable dose. Long-term (3-month) treatment with LMWHs appears to be as effective and safe as oral anticoagulant therapy for the treatment of venous thromboembolism. It appears that each LMWH is a distinct compound with unique pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profiles. Until more data are available regarding these special populations, periodic monitoring of anti-Xa activity levels may be recommended to detect accumulation and/or an overdose and minimise the bleeding risk. The non-haemorrhagic adverse effects of the LMWHs include heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) and osteoporosis. The incidence of HIT appears to be lower with LMWHs than with UFH; there is currently not enough data to compare the frequency of HIT between the various LMWHs. LMWHs also appear to carry a lower risk of causing osteoporosis than UFH. In conclusion, studies that include special population patients are required to make conclusive recommendations concerning the safety and monitoring of the different LMWHs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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