Thousands of lives have been saved by providing blood-thinning drugs to individuals with a heart condition that puts them at risk of stroke, as per the chief executive of NHS England. Since the commencement of the initiative in January 2022, approximately 460,000 people in England suffering from atrial fibrillation (AF) have been prescribed one of four anticoagulant drugs that lower the risk of stroke.
Thanks to the swift implementation of these drugs, an estimated 4,000 lives have been preserved, and around 17,000 strokes have been prevented, stated Amanda Pritchard. Each year, strokes claim the lives of over 27,000 individuals in England and lead to the hospitalization of around 120,000.
As part of a nationwide campaign to promote the uptake of these medications, 90% of the 1.5 million AF patients in England are now using them. This concerted effort is expected to result in a decrease in the number of strokes, given that AF contributes to one in every five strokes.
In an upcoming speech at the King's Fund health thinktank's annual conference, Pritchard will highlight that the rapid distribution of these drugs represents a significant leap forward in delivering optimal care to patients with cardiovascular disease.
The group of drugs, known as direct oral anticoagulants, work by preventing blood clotting, thereby reducing the risk of clot formation leading to a stroke. In 2021, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended four anticoagulants: apixaban, dabigatran, edoxaban, and rivaroxaban, with edoxaban being the most frequently prescribed.
Dr. Maeva May, director of policy and research at the Stroke Association, applauds the widespread usage of these drugs as "fantastic news." She explains that AF accounts for one in every five strokes, and strokes in AF patients tend to be more severe and result in higher rates of death or serious disability. Most AF-related strokes can be prevented by the appropriate medication, she added.
NHS England has utilized its purchasing power to negotiate agreements with the manufacturers of these four drugs, leading to their wider availability.
The achievements of the NHS in reducing stroke fatalities have been commended by the British Heart Foundation, which recognizes their progress towards this important goal.