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Nat Rev Cardiol. 2014 May;11(5):290-303. doi: 10.1038/nrcardio.2014.22. Epub 2014 Mar 11.

Oral anticoagulants for Asian patients with atrial fibrillation.

Author information

Rayne Institute, St Thomas' Hospital, London SE1 7EH, UK.
St George's Vascular Institute, Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, St George's University of London, Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 0RE, UK.
Cardiovascular Sciences Research Centre, St George's University of London, Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 0RE, UK.

Erratum in

  • Nat Rev Cardiol. 2014 Dec;11(12):686.


Anticoagulation is the most-important intervention to prevent stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). Despite a lower point prevalence of AF in Asian communities and Asian countries than in other populations, individuals of Asian ethnicity are at a disproportionately high risk of stroke and have greater consequent mortality. Warfarin and other vitamin K antagonists are conventionally used for anticoagulation, and demonstrably reduce the risk of stroke and all-cause mortality in patients with AF. The use of warfarin in Asian countries is suboptimal, primarily owing to the universal challenge of achieving controlled anticoagulation with an unpredictable drug as well as concerns about the particularly high-risk of haemorrhage in Asian patients. Instead, antiplatelet therapy has been favoured in Asian communities, this strategy is neither safe nor effective for stroke prevention in these individuals. The non-vitamin K antagonist, oral anticoagulant drugs offer a solution to this challenge. The direct thrombin inhibitor dabigatran, and the direct factor Xa inhibitors apixaban, edoxaban, and rivaroxaban, have demonstrated noninferiority to warfarin in the prevention of stroke and systemic embolism in international, randomized, controlled trials. Importantly, some of these drugs are also associated with a significantly lower incidence of major haemorrhage, and all result in lower rates of intracranial haemorrhage and haemorrhagic stroke than warfarin. In this article, we review the use of the non-vitamin K antagonist anticoagulants in the management of AF in Asian populations.

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