Can we differentiate the low-molecular-weight heparins?
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The low-molecular-weight heparins (LMWHs) have a number of therapeutic advantages, relative to standard unfractionated heparin (UFH). They are readily bioavailable when injected subcutaneously and can be given in fixed doses, allowing for far simpler administration. Several LMWHs are now commercially available, each demonstrating different physical and chemical properties and different activities in animal models of anticoagulation or hemorrhage. In clinical comparisons with placebo in the treatment of unstable coronary artery disease (UCAD), the LMWHs dalteparin sodium and nadroparin calcium have demonstrated good anticoagulant efficacy. In comparisons with UFH, on the other hand, only enoxaparin has shown superior anticoagulant activity, as reported in the results of the Efficacy and Safety of Subcutaneous Enoxaparin in Non-Q-wave Coronary Events (ESSENCE) and Thrombolysis In Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) 11B trials. However, close scrutiny of the methodology of the clinical trials in UCAD reveals considerable differences in study designs, dosage regimens, duration of administration of active treatments, and the timing and definition of endpoints. Therefore, it would not be scientifically sound to compare results with the different LMWHs based on the current available studies. It is also not possible to draw any conclusions with regard to the relative efficacy of the different LMWHs, since there are no properly-sized comparative data between dalteparin sodium, enoxaparin sodium, and nadroparin calcium.
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