BMC Cardiovascular Disorders (2021-03-01)

Burden of oral anticoagulation in embolic stroke of undetermined source without atrial fibrillation

  • Klaus K. Witte,
  • Georgios Tsivgoulis,
  • Matthew R. Reynolds,
  • Stelios I. Tsintzos,
  • Simon Eggington,
  • Eleni Ismyrloglou,
  • Julie Lyon,
  • Marianne Huynh,
  • Marta Egea,
  • Bonnie de Brouwer,
  • Paul D. Ziegler,
  • Noreli Franco,
  • Rashmi Joglekar,
  • Sarah C. Rosemas,
  • Shufeng Liu,
  • Vincent Thijs

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 21, no. 1
pp. 1 – 9


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Abstract Objective Prevention of recurrent stroke in patients with embolic stroke of undetermined source (ESUS) is challenging. The advent of safer anticoagulation in the form of direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) has prompted exploration of prophylactic anticoagulation for all ESUS patients, rather than anticoagulating just those with documented atrial fibrillation (AF). However, recent trials have failed to demonstrate a clinical benefit, while observing increased bleeding. We modeled the economic impact of anticoagulating ESUS patients without documented AF across multiple geographies. Methods CRYSTAL-AF trial data were used to assess ischaemic stroke event rates in ESUS patients confirmed AF-free after long-term monitoring. Anticipated bleeding event rates (including both minor and major bleeds) with aspirin, dabigatran 150 mg, and rivaroxaban 20 mg were sourced from published meta-analyses, whilst a 30% ischaemic stroke reduction for both DOACs was assumed. Cost data for clinical events and pharmaceuticals were collected from the local payer perspective. Results Compared with aspirin, dabigatran and rivaroxaban resulted in 17.9 and 29.9 additional bleeding events per 100 patients over a patient’s lifetime, respectively. Despite incorporating into our model the proposed 30% reduction in ischaemic stroke risk, both DOACs were cost-additive over patient lifetime, as the costs of bleeding events and pharmaceuticals outweighed cost savings associated with the reduction in ischaemic strokes. DOACs added £5953–£7018 per patient (UK), €6683–€7368 (Netherlands), €4933–€9378 (Spain), AUD$5353–6539 (Australia) and $26,768–$32,259 (US) of payer cost depending on the agent prescribed. Additionally, in the U.S. patient pharmacy co-payments ranged from $2468–$12,844 depending on agent and patient plan. In all settings, cost-savings could not be demonstrated even when the modelling assumed 100% protection from recurrent ischaemic strokes, due to the very low underlying risk of recurrent ischaemic stroke in this population (1.27 per 100 patient-years). Conclusions Anticoagulation of non-AF patients may cause excess bleeds and add substantial costs for uncertain benefits, suggesting a personalised approach to anticoagulation in ESUS patients.