BACKGROUND: The objective of this article is to summarize the published literature concerning the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of oral anticoagulant drugs that are currently available for clinical use and other aspects related to their management. METHODS: We carried out a standard review of published articles focusing on the laboratory and clinical characteristics of the vitamin K antagonists; the direct thrombin inhibitor, dabigatran etexilate; and the direct factor Xa inhibitor, rivaroxaban RESULTS: The antithrombotic effect of each oral anticoagulant drug, the interactions, and the monitoring of anticoagulation intensity are described in detail and discussed without providing specific recommendations. Moreover, we describe and discuss the clinical applications and optimal dosages of oral anticoagulant therapies, practical issues related to their initiation and monitoring, adverse events such as bleeding and other potential side effects, and available strategies for reversal. CONCLUSIONS: There is a large amount of evidence on laboratory and clinical characteristics of vitamin K antagonists. A growing body of evidence is becoming available on the first new oral anticoagulant drugs available for clinical use, dabigatran and rivaroxaban.