BACKGROUND: Dose reduction of non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) is indicated in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) with renal impairment. Failure to reduce the dose in patients with severe kidney disease may increase bleeding risk, whereas dose reductions without a firm indication may decrease the effectiveness of stroke prevention.
OBJECTIVES: The goal of this study was to investigate NOAC dosing patterns and associated outcomes, i.e., stroke (ischemic stroke and systemic embolism) and major bleeding in patients treated in routine clinical practice.
METHODS: Using a large U.S. administrative database, 14,865 patients with AF were identified who initiated apixaban, dabigatran, or rivaroxaban between October 1, 2010, and September 30, 2015. We examined use of a standard dose in patients with a renal indication for dose reduction (potential overdosing) and use of a reduced dose when the renal indication is not present (potential underdosing). Cox proportional hazards regression was performed in propensity score-matched cohorts to investigate the outcomes.
RESULTS: Among the 1,473 patients with a renal indication for dose reduction, 43.0% were potentially overdosed, which was associated with a higher risk of major bleeding (hazard ratio: 2.19; 95% confidence interval: 1.07 to 4.46) but no statistically significant difference in stroke (3 NOACs pooled). Among the 13,392 patients with no renal indication for dose reduction, 13.3% were potentially underdosed. This underdosing was associated with a higher risk of stroke (hazard ratio: 4.87; 95% confidence interval: 1.30 to 18.26) but no statistically significant difference in major bleeding in apixaban-treated patients. There were no statistically significant relationships in dabigatran- or rivaroxaban-treated patients without a renal indication.
CONCLUSION: In routine clinical practice, prescribed NOAC doses are often inconsistent with drug labeling. These prescribing patterns may be associated with worse safety with no benefit in effectiveness in patients with severe kidney disease and worse effectiveness with no benefit in safety in apixaban-treated patients with normal or mildly impaired renal function.