For many people today, anticoagulants or blood thinners are a normal part of everyday life. In fact, it’s estimated that more than eight million people in the U.S. use these medications daily to prevent dangerous blood clots.1 Blood thinners are life-saving medications, but as with any medication, they also carry some risks, including potentially serious bleeding incidents.
Since blood thinners slow the rate at which a person’s blood will clot, unwanted and sometimes dangerous bleeding can occur with their use. Most times, this bleeding isn’t life-threatening, and might just involve a minor cut or scrape, but some injuries, like those caused by a fall or head injury, can result in more serious consequences.2
While many people who take blood thinners understand this potential risk for serious bleeding, and are taking steps to minimize their bleeding risks, the results of a recent survey conducted by the National Blood Clot Alliance (NBCA) demonstrate that they still remain fearful of major bleeding.
Specifically, of the respondents aged 18 and older currently prescribed direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs), 42 percent say the risk of a major bleed has discouraged them from trying new activities. Of the 55 percent who said they fear major bleeding, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) say this concern has impacted their quality of life. Nearly 3 in 5 respondents (59 percent) said they were more cautious about participating in leisure activities – from gardening (62 percent), to traveling (39 percent) and playing with children or grandchildren (36 percent) – after having been prescribed blood thinners.
This is unfortunate, given that life expectancy has nearly doubled in recent decades3, with people today living fuller, longer lives and expressing a heightened interest and enthusiasm for traveling and new experiences.4
“What we want, of course, is for people who are prescribed blood thinners to be living their best life – traveling, exercising, playing with their grandchildren,” says Michael B. Streiff, M.D., FACP, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. “To address the fear people taking blood thinners might have about bleeding risks, it’s important for them to have a good dialogue with their healthcare providers so they understand fully how those risks can be managed, particularly if serious bleeding does occur.”
The good news is this dialogue is taking place: Almost all (95 percent) of the people surveyed report that they have discussed the risks associated with blood thinners with their healthcare provider, and most (89 percent) of the respondents who said they are more cautious about travelling also said they would be more likely to travel if they knew there were hospitals nearby that had medicines to stop or reverse a severe bleeding incident.
Patients may need to balance their concerns with information that will help them be prepared. They should discuss all of their questions and concerns with their medical team to understand how serious bleeding can be managed, should it occur, including how other therapies may be used in an emergency or hospital setting to help reverse their blood thinner medication in the event of a serious bleeding incident.
Not sure where to start? Visit www.stoptheclot.org/guide to learn more, and to download a free discussion guide to help inform your next conversation with your healthcare provider.
1 IBM Truven Health Analytics, 12 months ending December 31, 2018 for Commercial, Medicare and Medicaid patients (October 24, 2019)
2 The National Blood Clot Alliance. Accessed February 4, 2020. https://www.stoptheclot.org/about-clots/managing-anticoagulants/
3 The National Institute on Aging. Accessed February 4, 2020. https://www.nia.nih.gov/living-long-well-21st-century-strategic-directions- research-aging/introduction.
4 Lane, Lea. “Percentage of Americans Who Never Traveled Beyond The State Where They Were Born? A Surprise.” Accessed February 4, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lealane/2019/05/02/percentage-of-americans-who-never-traveled-beyond-the-state-where-they-were-born-a- surprise/