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Switching of oral anticoagulants in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation: A narrative review

Approval of direct-acting oral anticoagulants (DOACs) for stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation (AF) was an important milestone, providing a wider range of treatment options and creating the possibility for drug switching after initiation. In addition to improved utilisation of oral anticoagulants (OACs) for stroke prevention, reports of switching among OACs are growing in the literature; switching may influence clinical outcomes, healthcare costs and patient satisfaction. This review aimed to summarise the current literature on the pattern of OAC switching in patients with AF, including reasons for switching and clinical consequences following switching. A literature search was conducted in PubMed, Scopus and Embase on 27 June 2020. We included 39 articles published after 2013, following the introduction of apixaban. The review found that switching among OACs was common in clinical practice, significantly varying with the type of OAC. Studies reporting the reason for switching and clinical outcomes were comparatively limited. The decision to switch was often related to safety issues (usually bleeding), poor anticoagulation control and ease of use. Patient characteristics, clinical conditions and drug interactions were found to be associated with switching from OACs. Findings regarding bleeding outcomes following switching were inconsistent, possibly confounded by the rationale for switching and the switching protocol. Noting the limited number of studies included and their relatively short follow-up periods, switching did not have a significant impact on the risk of stroke and other thrombotic outcomes. Further prospective studies are needed to understand better potential rationales for switching and the clinical outcomes.


Publication title

British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology






Student Life and Enrichment


Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

9600 Garsington Rd, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox4 2Dg

Rights statement

© 2021 British Pharmacological Society

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Efficacy of medications; Treatment of human diseases and conditions

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