Anticoagulants are pivotal agents for prevention and treatment of thromboembolic disorders. Limitations of existing anticoagulants, vitamin K antagonist and heparins, have led to the development of newer anticoagulant therapies. These anticoagulants have been designed to target specific coagulation enzymes or steps in the coagulation pathway. New anticoagulants that are under evaluation in clinical trials include: (1) inhibitors of the factor VIIa/tissue factor pathway; (2) factor Xa inhibitors, both indirect and direct; (3) activated protein C and soluble thrombomodulin; and (4) direct thrombin inhibitors. Although most of these are parenteral agents, several of the direct inhibitors of factor Xa and thrombin are orally active. Clinical development of these therapies often starts with studies in the prevention of venous thrombosis before evaluation for other indications, such as prevention of cardioembolism in patients with atrial fibrillation or prosthetic heart valves. At present, the greatest clinical need is for an oral anticoagulant to replace warfarin for long-term prevention and treatment of patients with venous and arterial thrombosis. Ximelagatran, an oral direct thrombin inhibitor, is the first of a series of promising new agents that might fulfill this need. Large phase 3 trials evaluating ximelagatran for the secondary prevention of venous thromboembolism and prevention of cardioembolic events in patients with atrial fibrillation have been completed.