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YOUR HEALTH Reversing the impact of blood thinners

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida – Mark Bresin had lots of adventures working as a mechanical engineer in China for ten years.

But he didn't need the excitement of being rushed to the emergency room when he was back home.

"I had an episode with pretty significant bleeding, G-I bleeding."

"Mark came to the emergency room feeling extremely weak, very lightheaded, he looked extremely pale," remembered Dr. Rishi Anand, the Electrophysiology Lab Medical Director at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale.

Mark was taking blood thinners for an abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation.

Doctors say he's not alone.    About three million people in the U.S. are on what are known as 10-A inhibitors.
And while these drugs are needed to help prevent stroke in patients, blood thinners do pose a risk.

"On a yearly basis of those three million, about 110,000 are having some sort of admission to a hospital for a bleeding event," explained Dr. Anand.   "There's a chance of death within 30 days with these acute medical illnesses."

Now doctors at Holy Cross Hospital are testing a medication that reverses the effects of the new class of blood thinners.

"The name of the drug is Andexanet Alfa," said Dr. Anand.  " We would administer the medication through an IV infusion."

The antidote stops the bleeding within two to five minutes.

"Coumadin is a generic blood thinner that has been on the market for many years and in the last decade there have been new comers to the market which we call novel oral anticoagulants," explained Dr. Anand.

Some examples are Xarelto, Eliquis or Pradaxa.   Xarelto and Eliquis do not have an antidote available to them as of yet.

Contrast that to Coumadin.

"If you come in with a bleeding event we can give you Vitamin K which is a typical antidote that's used to try to reverse Coumadin immediately," said Dr. Anand.

"And Pradaxa which is a novel oral anticoagulant but works through a different mechanism than Xarelto or Eliquis, it also has an antidote that just got released to the market about a year ago.   There is clearly a very strong need to develop an antidote for these two particular medications and any other medications that act through a similar mechanism."

Mark became part of the clinical trial the day he ended up in the E-R.   He's thankful the drug was there for him.

"It truly was a blessing that it was available."

Doctors say they have reversed the conditions of more than 200 patients nationwide.   The antidote is part of the Annexa-four trial and is on the fast track for approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.