- Oral anticoagulation is the mainstay of therapy for stroke prevention in patients with atrial fibrillation. Vitamin K antagonists such as warfarin reduce the risk of cardioembolic stroke by approximately two-thirds compared with no treatment, but are limited by their unpredictable anticoagulant effect and narrow therapeutic index. Warfarin therapy requires routine coagulation monitoring, which is inconvenient for patients and costly for the healthcare system. The limitations of the vitamin K agonists have spurred the development of new oral anticoagulants that selectively inhibit thrombin or factor Xa. The Randomized Evaluation of Long-Term Anticoagulation (RE-LY) trial of 18,113 patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation and at least one additional risk factor for stroke demonstrated that dabigatran etexilate given at a dose of 150 mg twice daily compared with warfarin, reduced the rate of stroke or systemic embolism by one-third with a similar rate of major bleeding, whereas dabigatran etexilate given at a dose of 110 mg twice daily compared with warfarin had a similar rate of stroke or systemic embolism and reduced the rate of major bleeding by one-fifth. Both doses of dabigatran etexilate reduced intracranial bleeding by approximately two-thirds compared with warfarin. Based on the results of the RE-LY trial, both the US FDA and Health Canada recently approved dabigatran etexilate for the prevention of stroke and systemic embolism in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation.