The Guideline-Policy Gap in Direct-Acting Oral Anticoagulants Usage in Atrial Fibrillation: Evidence, Practice, and Public Policy Considerations


Atrial fibrillation has a high disease burden—both in prevalence and associated consequences. Despite anticoagulation being an effective treatment in atrial fibrillation, stroke prevention is slow to reflect evidence-based practice. Real-world data reveal a substantial portion of patients who would benefit from anticoagulation, yet do not receive it adequately or at all. A large part of this suboptimal treatment is due to the underutilization of direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs). In response to abundant evidence published over a short timeframe, international guidelines have adopted DOAC usage ahead of policy and fund holders. This paper reviews the evidence and values that influence published guidelines, patient-physician decision making, and policy framework on DOAC usage. An important factor is the access gap between patients who qualify for DOAC according to evidence-based guidelines and the subset of this cohort who are eligible for DOAC based on government funded policy. We analyse the Canadian health system in detail—including drug approval and funding process. Health care systems in other countries are explored, with emphasis on similar universal health care systems that may help overcome barriers common to Canada. We will discuss strategies to: (1) improve awareness of the risk and preventability of stroke; (2) enable physicians to provide evidence-based DOAC usage; (3) empower patients to improve adherence and persistence; (4) collect real-life data that encourages patient self-monitoring, physician outcomes auditing, and building evidence that is useful for policy makers; and (5) use postmarketing data in negotiating shared risk management between pharmaceuticals and government to improve access to DOACs.

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Wan D et al. Can J Cardiol. 2018;34:1412-1425.