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Effectiveness and Safety of Off-Label Dose-Reduced Direct Oral Anticoagulants in Atrial Fibrillation

Off-label reduced-dose direct anticoagulants: prevalence and outcomes.

Direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) reduce the risk of stroke and systemic embolism in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation but may result in serious bleeding complications. Off-label dose-reduced use of DOACs to mitigate bleeding is common in routine clinical practice although data about its consequences on patient outcomes are limited. Therefore, our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of off-label dose-reduced vs per-label standard-dose DOAC treatment.


The study cohort included newly diagnosed patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation that had initiated DOAC therapy between 2011 and 2017 in Clalit Health Services (Tel Aviv, Israel). Effectiveness was defined as the composite outcome of all-cause mortality, stroke, or myocardial infarction. The safety outcome was defined as bleeding events requiring hospitalization. Patients were followed until March 30, 2018 or until occurrence of an outcome event. Hazard ratios (HR) were adjusted for 21 variables, including comorbidities, concomitant medications, and socioeconomic factors, using multivariate regression.


A total of 8425 patients met the study criteria; 5140 (61%) patients were treated with DOACs at per-label dosing and 3285 (39%) patients were treated with off-label dose-reduced DOAC. Off-label dose-reduced treatment was associated with a higher rate of the composite effectiveness outcome: adjusted HR 1.57 (95% confidence interval, 1.34-1.83; P < .001) and a higher rate of bleeding: adjusted HR 1.63 (95% confidence interval, 1.14-2.34; P = .008).


Almost 4 of 10 patients were treated with off-label dose-reduced DOAC, which was associated with reduced effectiveness without a safety benefit. Compliance with per-label dosage may significantly improve outcomes of this population.

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-Ruslan Sergienko, MAb, Ariel Hammerman, PhDc, Sari Greenberg-Dotan, PhDc, Erez Batat, MScc, Orly Avnery, MDd,e, Martin H. Ellis, MDd,e

This article originally appeared in the July 2019 issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

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