Sarver Heart Center Doctor Studies New Drug to Prevent Stroke

Pila Martinez
Aug. 9, 2001

A study under way at the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center is looking at a drug that could make it easier to prevent stroke in patients suffering from a common heart rhythm irregularity known as atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the heart's electrical signals become chaotic, causing the muscles in the upper chambers to quiver rather than contract. This can lead to the formation of blood clots, which could cause a stroke if they reach the brain.

The drug most commonly used to reduce stroke risk in patients with atrial fibrillation is warfarin, which slows the rate at which blood clots by suppressing the production of some clotting factors. But management of the drug can be complicated - patients must undergo regular blood draws to monitor the dose, and avoid some drugs and foods because of interactions.

Sarver cardiologist Dr. Paul Fenster is studying a drug called melagatran, which slows the rate of clot formation in a different way. Melagatran inhibits a clotting agent called thrombin, and is a member of a class of drugs called "direct thrombin inhibitors."

Melagatran does not require blood draws and has been proven in studies to be effective in preventing the formation of unwanted clots after surgery. Unlike other direct thrombin inhibitors, which are administered intravenously, melagatran is taken orally.

"These drugs have the potential to greatly simplify and reduce the risks of chronic anti-coagulation treatment," Fenster says.

Melagatran also could reduce costs, as monthly blood monitoring would not be required.

The multi-center study, called SPORTIF V, is sponsored by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.




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