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Walter Kerwin, MD, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA


(Finally) A Head-to-Head Comparison of Anticoagulants for A-Fib: Eliquis vs Xarelto

The most commonly prescribed direct-acting anticoagulants (DOACs) for A-Fib patients are Eliquis (generic name: apixaban) and Xarelto (generic name: rivaroxaban).

Direct-acting anticoagulants (DOACs) were introduced in the early 2010s, but most of the testing has been against warfarin, not against other DOACs. Finally, thanks to the researchers of two retrospective studies, A-Fib patients now have a head-to-head comparison of Eliquis versus Xarelto.

Study 1: Stroke and Bleeding Risks

A recent retrospective study (Fralick, M. et al) looked at 6 years of prescription data for atrial fibrillation patients from the Nationwide Healthcare Claims Database (NPIC). A-Fib patient group sizes were matched (39,351 each). Mean age was 69 years, 40% were women and follow up was 288–291 days.

Significant Findings 

Eliquis patients had significantly lower incidence of major bleeding (12.9 vs 21.9 events-per-1K-person-yrs.)

1. Eliquis patients had significantly lower rates of stroke or systemic embolism (6.6 vs 8.0 events per 1000 person-years) compared to Xarelto.

2. Eliquis patients had a significantly lower incidence of major bleeding, defined as gastrointestinal bleeding or intracranial hemorrhage (12.9 vs 21.9 events per 1000 person-years).

Researchers Conclusion (Fralick, M. et al): In routine care, adults with atrial fibrillation prescribed apixaban had a lower rate of both ischemic stroke or systemic embolism and bleeding compared with those prescribed rivaroxaban.

Study 2: Stroke and Bleeding Risks

A second retrospective study (Ray, W. et al) looked at 581,451 atrial fibrillation patients 65 years or older who were enrolled in Medicare from 2013–2018. A-Fib patient group sizes were Rivaroxaban, 227,572 and Apixaban, 353,879. Follow up was for 4 years, through November 30, 2018. Mean age was 77.0 years; 50.2% were women (291 966).

Significant Findings 

Xarelto had substantially more nonfatal extracranial bleeding (39.7 vs 18.5 events-per-1K-person-yrs.)

1. Xarelto patients had more hemorrhagic events including fatal extracranial bleeding (1.4 vs 1.0 per 1000 person-years)

2. Xarelto had more nonfatal extracranial bleeding (39.7 vs 18.5 per 1000 person-years)

3. Xarelto had more fatal ischemic/hemorrhagic events (4.5 vs 3.3 per 1000 person-years)

4. Xarelto had more “total mortality” (44.2 vs 41.0 per 1000 person-years)

Researchers Conclusions and Relevance (Ray, W. et al):  Among Medicare beneficiaries 65 years or older with atrial fibrillation, treatment with rivaroxaban compared with apixaban was associated with a significantly increased risk of major ischemic or hemorrhagic events.

Eliquis vs Xarelto…and the Winner is…

Eliquis (apixaban)! In routine care, Eliquis was found to be both more effective and safer than Xarelto.

As patients, we should pay particular attention to the fact that Eliquis had significantly lower incidence of major bleeding (gastrointestinal bleeding or intracranial hemorrhage) than Xarelto (12.9 vs 21.9 events). And that Xarelto had increased nonfatal extracranial bleeding (39.7 vs 18.5 events) compared to Eliquis.

These differences in bleeding weren’t just “statistically significant” but were really alarming. Major, red flag warning important. Particularly for older people who are more prone to bleeding problems.

Alert: There is anecdotal evidence that some healthcare insurers are pushing patients to switch from Eliquis to Xarelto, despite the above research.

Be Your Own Best Patient-Advocate

Whether or not to take anticoagulants and which one is one of the most difficult decisions you and your doctor must make.

All the results cited above were “significant” and should be taken into account when choosing an anticoagulant.

If you are taking Xarelto, you should talk with your doctor about switching to Eliquis.

Learn all you can about your health conditions. A well-informed patient is welcomed by your doctors and healthcare caregivers. (If not, consider changing doctors.)
References
• Fralick, M. et al. Effectiveness and Safety of Apixaban Compared With Rivaroxaban for Patients With Atrial Fibrillation in Routine Practice: A Cohort Study. APC Journals, Annals of Internal Medicine. April 7, 2020. https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M19-2522

• Ray, W. et al. Association of Rivaroxaban vs Apixaban With Major Ischemic or Hemorrhagic Events in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation. JAMA. 2021;326(23):2395-2404. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2787319 doi:10.1001/jama.2021.21222

• Dressler, D. et al. Apixaban Might Be Safer and More Effective Than Rivaroxaban for Atrial Fibrillation. NEJM Journal Watch, Ann Intern Med 2020 Mar 9. https://www.jwatch.org/na51065/2020/03/09/apixaban-might-be-safer-and-more-effective-rivaroxaban

• The FH NPIC (National Private Insurance Claims) database. Includes information found on medical and dental claim forms for billions of services billed through private health insurance. https://www.fairhealth.org/custom-solutions/claims-data 

 

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