A pill costing less than £3 a day is being hailed as the biggest breakthrough in stroke prevention in 50 years. The drug, which slashes the risk of suffering a stroke by over a third, will help more than a million Britons.
Pradaxa is now available for use in the UK. In trials it was found to significantly reduce the risk of a stroke in patients with an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation. This is one of the main causes of strokes.
The drug, taken twice a day at a cost of £2.52, already prevents thousands of deaths each year from blood clots after hip or knee replacement surgery. Now European regulators have given the makers of the drug permission to use it for the prevention of strokes in patients with AF, who have one or more risk factors such as having already suffered a stroke.
Pradaxa will now be assessed by the Government’s drug rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, to determine whether it should be widely used in the NHS for stroke prevention.
But it is immediately available if purchased privately or if prescribed at a doctor’s discretion.
Trudie Lobban, founder and chief executive of the Atrial Fibrillation Association, said: “Our members live in fear of suffering a disabling or fatal stroke and they have waited years for an alternative to current treatment.”
The widely used drug warfarin, which was first approved for use in humans in 1954, costs around £1 for a month’s supply, plus clinic visits for regular blood tests.
However, Pradaxa is more effective and it is hoped it could prevent 3,000 strokes a day worldwide.
Research on 18,113 patients in 44 countries showed the recommended 150mg dose of Pradaxa twice daily reduced the risk of stroke in AF patients by 35 per cent compared with warfarin. And it is harder to accidentally administer the wrong dose.
Warfarin, first developed to poison rats, is difficult to control because it interacts with other drugs and even some food and drink. Patients also need regular blood checks to monitor its effects.
Professor Martin Cowie, a Consultant Cardiologist at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, said: “Pradaxa is exciting because it doesn’t interact with many other drugs or any food or alcohol and patients do not have to have a blood check to make sure it is working.
“I have got quite a few patients asking when Pradaxa is going to be available because they have had such difficulty with warfarin that stops them from going on holiday.
“They will be delighted that there will be an alternative. For those who have difficulty with warfarin, this is fantastic news.”