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PLoS One. 2013 May 2;8(5):e61979. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061979. Print 2013.

Patterns of warfarin use in subgroups of patients with atrial fibrillation: a cross-sectional analysis of 430 general practices in the United Kingdom.

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School of Health and Population Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom.



Despite the proven efficacy of warfarin, its use in patients with Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is reportedly low. We investigated the underuse and overuse of warfarin in the management of AF in general practices in the United Kingdom (UK) against the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE, UK) guidelines whilst seeking to identify subgroups of AF patients to inform efforts to optimise warfarin use.


A retrospective database analysis to determine warfarin prescribing using tree models based on 50,361 patients with AF (classified as low, moderate and high risk of stroke using CHADS2) from 430 general practices in the UK.


Over one-third (37.0%, 4573/12,351) of low risk AF patients were on warfarin, compared with 47.1% (8349/17,709) moderate risk AF patients and 54.9% (11,142/20,301) high risk AF patients. Clinical subgroups (n = 15 low risk subgroups, n = 15 medium risk subgroups, n = 22 high risk subgroups) were identified. Several factors not supported by current guidelines (age, BMI, dementia, gender) were associated with the use of warfarin. Gender and BMI were associated with warfarin use in low and medium risk AF patients but not in high risk AF patients.


Whilst NICE guidelines suggest that all high risk AF patients should be on warfarin, half of those at moderate risk should be on warfarin and none of those at low risk should be on warfarin, we found evidence of over and under use of warfarin. Interventions to optimise warfarin therapy tailored to and targeting specific subgroups of AF patients identified by the tree models are required.

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