Optimizing the safety of treatment for venous thromboembolism in the era of the direct oral anticoagulants
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Direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) are rapidly replacing vitamin K antagonists (VKAs) for treatment of venous thromboembolism (VTE). The DOACs include dabigatran, which inhibits thrombin, and rivaroxaban, apixaban, and edoxaban, which inhibit factor Xa. When compared with conventional VTE treatment consisting of a parenteral anticoagulant followed by a VKA, the DOACs were equally effective for prevention of recurrence, but were associated with less bleeding. With similar efficacy, better safety, and the convenience of fixed dosing without the need for routine coagulation monitoring, guidelines now recommend DOACs over VKAs for VTE treatment in patients without active cancer. Nonetheless, measures are needed to optimize the safety of DOACs. Focusing on these measures, this paper summarizes the results of phase III trials evaluating DOACs for VTE treatment; identifies which VTE patients are or are not candidates for DOACs; provides guidance on how to choose among DOACs; lists the licensed dosing information for DOACs; discusses the optimal treatment duration for VTE; describes periprocedural management of DOACs in patients requiring surgery or intervention; and finally, reviews the management of bleeding, including the role for specific reversal agents.
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