In order to bring you the best possible user experience, this site uses Javascript. If you are seeing this message, it is likely that the Javascript option in your browser is disabled. For optimal viewing of this site, please ensure that Javascript is enabled for your browser.
Did you know that your browser is out of date? To get the best experience using our website we recommend that you upgrade to a newer version. Learn more.

Newer drugs drive rise in oral anticoagulant use among patients with atrial fibrillation

Barcelona, Spain – 27 Aug 2017: Increasing use of the non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) has driven an overall rise in the prescription of oral anticoagulant drugs in patients with atrial fibrillation, according to a late-breaking analysis in more than 11 000 patients presented today at ESC Congress1.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia and significantly increases the risk of stroke and death. Oral anticoagulation is an effective treatment and is recommended for patients with atrial fibrillation and additional risk factors for thromboembolic events.

The EURObservational Research Programme Atrial Fibrillation (EORP-AF) Long-Term General Registry evaluated the use of oral anticoagulants in patients with atrial fibrillation in real world clinical practice across Europe. This registry, organised by the European Society of Cardiology, follows the EORP-AF Pilot Registry which enrolled around 3 000 patients and strongly contributed to knowledge in the field.3

In the EORP-AF Long-Term General Registry presented today factors influencing the use of vitamin K antagonists (VKA) and the newer NOACs were analysed. This prospective, observational registry included 11 096 patients with atrial fibrillation from 27 European countries who were enrolled between October 2013 and September 2016 from inpatient and outpatient cardiology clinics.

An oral anticoagulant drug was used in most patients (85%) with atrial fibrillation. Of those on oral anticoagulation, 59% received a VKA and 41% were treated with a NOAC.

Prof Giuseppe Boriani, chairman of the EORP-AF Long-Term General Registry and full professor of cardiology at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy, said: “The overall use of oral anticoagulants in atrial fibrillation has increased by around 5% since the previous survey which is good news since this results in protection of our patients from ischaemic stroke.4 This rise in oral anticoagulant use was largely driven by the increase in uptake of NOACs.”

In the four years since the last survey, NOAC use increased from 10% to 41% of those on oral anticoagulants. “This probably reflects the fact that NOACs have become more available throughout Europe,” said Prof Boriani.

Less clinically complex patients were more likely to be treated with NOACs than VKAs. Patients were less likely to receive NOACs if they had coronary artery disease, received pharmacological cardioversion, or had heart failure – despite evidence that these drugs can be safely used.

ESC guidelines recommend NOACs over VKAs, but there was a large variability in NOAC use across European regions. Patients prescribed oral anticoagulants were more likely to receive NOACs if they lived in Northern and Western Europe and VKAs if they lived in Eastern and Southern Europe.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of patients at low thromboembolic risk received oral anticoagulants. “According to ESC guidelines, these patients should not be receiving oral anticoagulants unless a cardioversion is planned, so better attention and adherence to recommendations is needed,” said Prof Boriani.5 “Conversely, there was a tendency to underuse oral anticoagulants in patients with both a high risk of bleeding and a high risk of stroke.”

Patients were more likely to receive oral anticoagulant therapy if they had characteristics or conditions that increase thromboembolic risk. These included age, hypertension, previous thromboembolic events, and symptoms due to their atrial fibrillation. Patients were more likely to not receive oral anticoagulant therapy if they had conditions that increase the risk of bleeding, such as chronic kidney disease and previous haemorrhagic events.

Prof Boriani said: “This is the largest and most up-to-date snapshot of oral anticoagulant use in patients with atrial fibrillation across Europe that is organised by a scientific society rather than industry.”


Notes to editor

SOURCES OF FUNDING: Please see the paper for funding sources.
DISCLOSURES: Please see the paper for disclosures of all authors.

References and notes
1The abstract “EURObservational Research Programme on Atrial Fibrillation (EORP-AF) Long-Term General Registry: Analysis of Treatment with Oral Anticoagulants in More Than 11,000 Patients” will be presented during the session Late-Breaking ESC Registry Results on 27 August at 10:05 to 10:55 in Valetta – Village 5.
2Results from the EORP-AF Pilot Registry are published in 16 scientific papers in leading international journals.
3Lip GYH, et al. A prospective survey in European Society of Cardiology member countries of atrial fibrillation management: baseline results of EURObservational Research Programme Atrial Fibrillation (EORP-AF) Pilot General Registry. Europace. 2014;16:308–319.
4 Kirchhof P, et al. 2016 ESC Guidelines for the management of atrial fibrillation developed in collaboration with EACTS. Europace. 2016;18:1609–1678.

About the EURObservational Research Programme
The EURObservational Research Programme (EORP) is the large ESC registry programme. EORP aims at providing a better understanding of medical practice in Europe through the collection of observational data and at evaluating the implementation of ESC guidelines.

About the European Society of Cardiology
The European Society of Cardiology brings together health care professionals from more than 140 countries, working to advance cardiovascular medicine and help people lead longer, healthier lives.

About ESC Congress 2017
ESC Congress is the world’s largest and most influential cardiovascular event contributing to global awareness of the latest clinical trials and breakthrough discoveries. ESC Congress 2017 takes place 26 to 30 August at the Fira Gran Via in Barcelona, Spain. The scientific programme is here. More information is available from the ESC Press Office at