Have you seen the television commercials for Xarelto ? What Arnold Palmer, Kevin Nealon, Brian Vickers and all the other promoters of Xarelto fail to tell you is that Xarelto not only is many times more expensive than generic anti-coagulant drugs such as Warfarin, but there is no known antidote in case it causes problems such as severe bleeding which is an inherent risk of such drugs.
When a patient takes Warfarin and has severe bleeding the effects can be quickly reversed with a simple and inexpensive shot of Vitamin K. For Xarelto there is presently no known antidote. If Xarelto causes severe bleeding, the patient will need to have massive blood transfusions and a prolonged stay in the hospital.
Although Johnson and Johnson and Bayer, the makers and distributors of Xarelto, are certainly well aware of this and are presumably feverishly trying to discover an antidote, you wouldn’t know this from their multi-million dollar advertising campaign.
An recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer concerning a rival company’s anticoagulant product underscores this fact. In this article Boehringer, manufacturer of Pradaxa, proudly announces that it has found an antidote to be used if and when the use of Pradaxa causes bleeding. The real issue then is why Boehringer did not delay the release of its drug until it had completed testing for an antidote.
And, of course, the answer is money. As the only alleged advantage that Xarelto and Pradaxa have over Warfarin is that the administration of the drug does not need the close monitoring, it is a shame that the drug makers did not wait put the drug on the market until they could market it safely, complete with a proven antidote.
The History of Anticoagulants
Anticoagulants are a class of drugs that work to prevent the coagulation (clotting) of blood. The first known anticoagulant, Coumarin, (known now as Warfirin) was extracted from Tonka beans and sweet clover in the early 19th century by a German researcher who coined the name from the French word for Tonka beans – coumarou.
In 1916, Jay McLean, a student at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine discovered the anticoagulant drug Heparin while researching procoagulation (the opposite of anticoagulation) in dog livers. For the last 60 years, Heparins and Coumarins have been the main durgs used for anticoagulation.
In the last 10 years, there have been new classes of drugs that allegedly offer advantages over the traditional anticoagulant therapies. One of these drug classes, oral direct factor Xa inhibitors, of which Xarelto is a member, has been advertised as an easier alternative to the traditional methods because of its supposed ability to be administered without monitoring.
These claims have been debunked by the medical industry itself; however, through aggressive sales and advertising the makers of these drugs have profited tremendously despite the known dangerous bleeding effects and their unnecessary high costs when compared to coumarins which are still the best and safest choices for people who need anticoagulant drugs.