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Clot-busting drugs cost 5 times more, research suggests

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Anticoagulants cost more

Anticoagulants cost more

Anticoagulants cost more

The use of clot-busting drugs instead of the blood-thinning drug warfarin is costing the Irish taxpayer almost five times more, a study has revealed.

The average annual cost per patient being treated with anticoagulants, which are used to prevent the occurrence or increase of unwanted blood clots, is in the region of €900 compared with €160 for warfarin.

Total expenditure increased 4.5 fold from €1,023,067 a month at the start of 2014 to €4,582,874 by the year end 2018.

Reimbursed

"At current growth rates these drugs are set to become one of the most expensive therapies reimbursed under the community drugs schemes," said study co-author Amelia Smith, from the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at St James's Hospital.

"Whether this increased expenditure is reflected in much improved health outcomes remains to be seen."

For years warfarin has featured in the top 20 most frequently prescribed medicines under the general medical services (GMS) and drugs payment (DP) scheme. However, its limitations are well documented, including slow onset and offset of action, drug interactions and the requirement for monitoring in a bid to reduce toxicity.

The last 10 years has seen the introduction of the direct acting oral anticoagulants (DOACs) as an alternative to warfarin therapy.

The study, titled Oral Anticoagulants - Utilisation and Expenditure under the Community Drugs Schemes, concentrated on the number of patients dispensed these drugs from January 2014 to December 2018.

The prescribing of warfarin fell to 16,166 patients by December 2018, representing just 21.6pc of use.

In 2018 the mean age of patients receiving such drugs was 77 years and a large proportion were 80 years or over.

The trend toward increased anticogulant use has been seen in the UK and Europe.