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Pradaxa: Miracle Drug, Danger to Society… Or a Little Bit of Both?

Boehringer Ingelheim’s blood-thinning drug Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate) is a $1 billion industry unto itself.
Developed to usurp Coumadin’s (Warfarin) dominance over the blood thinner market, Pradaxa initially showed some promise in helping certain patient sub-populations reduce their risk for complications while managing medical issues, like atrial fibrillation (AF).
But as this blog and other media sources have reported, Pradaxa fell from grace, after studies and reports exposed the drug’s hidden, potentially fatal side effects.
So what’s the real story? Is Pradaxa a miracle drug? Or is it a dangerous medication that’s killing hundreds and putting thousands of patients through needless complications? Might there be some truth to both sides?
It’s hard to tell truth from fiction in our highly polarized media environment. For instance, consider a recent trial presented at the second Asia Pacific Stroke Conference in Tokyo, which studied Asian patients afflicted with atrial fibrillation. The patients who took 150 milligrams of Pradaxa showed superior performance compared to a controlled group of patients who took 150 milligrams of warfarin – a reduced risk of systemic embolism and hemorrhagic stroke. Pradaxa, at least in this study, also showed substantially lower rates of bleeding compared to Coumadin, a benefit that showed up in both Asian and non-Asian patients but which showed up stronger in Asian patients.
The analysis has been bandied about by supporters and criticized by stakeholders: the debate over the efficacy and dangers of blood-thinning drugs rages, and we’re not going to settle it here! But the study also highlights that there may be substantial variations among population groups, when it comes to medication risks and benefits.
On the other hand, consider a recent Pradaxa lawsuit launched in Kentucky. The plaintiff, James Lunsford, says that the blood thinner killed his mother. Lunsford says that the German drug-maker’s medication caused gastrointestinal bleeding. Medical technicians used dialysis to try to remove the drug from her system, but the damage could not be undone, and she died a week after her hospital admission.
What can we learn from these conflicting reports and studies?
First of all, much is unknown about how blood-thinning drugs like Warfarin, Pradaxa and Xarelto interact with different patient sub-classes. We can choose to believe (or not) stories told by researchers or by people who’ve lost loved ones due to side effects.
But the moral is that there is lot more that’s ìunknownî than there is ìknownî about how these drugs work and what they do to people. If you or someone you care about has been hurt due to side effects from Warfarin, Pradaxa, Xarelto or any other blood-thinning pharmaceutical, connect with the team here at Carey, Danis & Lowe for a free and confidential evaluation of your case.