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Drug boost for irregular heartbeat sufferers.

HUNDREDS of thousands of Britons with an irregular heartbeat could have their chance of blood clots and stroke significantly cut thanks to a drug, researchers said last night.

A trial on 14,000 patients found rivaroxaban cut the risk of stroke and blood clots by an extra fifth compared to the standard treatment warfarin.

Irregular heartbeat, also known as atrial fibrillation (AF), occurs when the heart beats out of synch or is abnormally fast. A normal heart rate should be between 60 and 100 beats a minute at rest but with AF, the heart rate can be over 140 beats a minute.

There are three major types of AF, with episodes lasting from between 48 hours to more than a year.

The condition is the most common heart rhythm disturbance and affects around 800,000 people in the UK - one in 100 people.

It is more common among the elderly, with about one in 10 of those over 75 suffering from AF. Both rivaroxaban and warfarin work by thinning the blood to reduce the risk of clots.

Rivaroxaban is already recommended on the NHS to prevent blood clots in people undergoing hip and knee replacement surgery.

In the new study, researchers from the University of Edinburgh and Duke University in North Carolina, found rivaroxaban cut the risk of blood clots and strokes by an extra fifth compared with warfarin.

Patients treated with warfarin are half as likely to have a stroke compared with those taking no treatment or aspirin but the dose needs to be closely monitored by medical staff, sometimes once a week.

Keith Fox, British Heart Foundation professor of cardiology at the University of Edinburgh said: "Our study showed that rivaroxaban is simpler to administer and patients taking it have fewer strokes and blood clots."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 16, 2010
Words:297
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