How Do I Choose the Best Alternative for Warfarin?

Gregory Hanson

Warfarin is a powerful anti-coagulant medicine, and a patient who has been prescribed this drug should choose an alternative for warfarin only after consultation with his or her physicians. Generic equivalents to warfarin exist, are available in most regions, and can be safely substituted for warfarin. Several new drugs have been approved since the year 2000 which serve some of the same functions as warfarin but with fewer side effects or with other benefits. A patient currently taking warfarin may wish to consult with his or her physician to see if one of these new medicines is a viable alternative for warfarin.

A patient may want to consult with a physician to learn about warfarin alternatives.
A patient may want to consult with a physician to learn about warfarin alternatives.

The drug warfarin is marketed under many different brand names and has been in widespread use for over 50 years. It was originally used as a form of rat poison, but it has therapeutic properties in humans when taken in carefully controlled doses. Warfarin works by limiting the blood’s ability to clot. This is very useful in preventing blood clots, particularly in patients with cardiac problems, artificial limbs or organs, or a predisposition to strokes. If too much of the drug is given, however, it can cause many serious or fatal complications, and even the ordinary side effects of warfarin can be very serious.

Warfarin can have negative drug interactions with numerous other medications.
Warfarin can have negative drug interactions with numerous other medications.

Many different companies manufacture this drug. Any drug containing warfarin is required to have chemically identical active ingredients. As a result, a patient who has been issued a prescription for one brand of warfarin should not worry if a pharmacist recommends a different variety of the same medicine. A substitute drug of this sort is not a true alternative for warfarin but simply a different brand of the same medicine.

Signs of a warfarin overdose may include bruises.
Signs of a warfarin overdose may include bruises.

Recent medical research has produced several drugs that have the potential to replace warfarin in some cases. These drugs typically have fewer side effects, and their side effects are generally less serious than those associated with warfarin itself. Drug makers have been focusing on drugs with less-rigorous dosing requirements, as warfarin requires constant and careful monitoring to ensure both efficacy and safety. The newer anticoagulants brought to market in the early 2000s have fewer drug interactions and remain at more stable levels within the body.

Blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin may cause excessive nosebleeds.
Blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin may cause excessive nosebleeds.

Some patients are interested in finding an herbal or natural alternative for warfarin. Some natural substances have anti-coagulant properties, but none can serve as a safe and effective alternative for warfarin. A patient should not attempt to replace a course of warfarin without first consulting with a physician.

A pharmacist may recommend a different brand of warfarin than the one prescribed.
A pharmacist may recommend a different brand of warfarin than the one prescribed.
Warfarin alternatives introduced since 2000 have fewer drug interactions, although some may still exist.
Warfarin alternatives introduced since 2000 have fewer drug interactions, although some may still exist.

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