Pradaxa, a newly approved blood thinner, has been linked an increased risk of sudden death, as well as certain viral illnesses, including flu and myocarditis, a viral infection of the heart.
In research involving laboratory mice, scientists at the University of North Carolina found that Pradaxa (Dabigatran etexilate), approved recently by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat patients with irregular heart rhythms, can pose a greater risk of heart and viral dangers, suggesting it may interfere with certain processes in the body.
For 50 years, people with the heartbeat irregularity, atrial fibrillation, and others at risk of developing life-threatening blood clots have been given the anticoagulant drug warfarin. Recently, the FDA approved Pradaxa as an alternative. The drug inhibits thrombin, the body's primary clotting agent.
But in blocking thrombin activity, the drug also may also interfere with other beneficial processes involved in the body’s immune system, according to the new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
"Our findings show that blocking thrombin reduces the innate immune response to viral infection," said Nigel Mackman, director of the UNC McAllister Heart Institute who helped conduct the study. "The use of the new generation of blood thinners might increase the risk and severity of flu and myocarditis."
Mackman noted that viral infections trigger blood-clotting activity and that helps activate other immune system functions.
For the study, Mackman and colleagues studied the effects of Pradaxa on mice infected with a virus that causes myocarditis. The results showed treated mice had greater levels of cardiac virus and heart damage.
The study was funded, in part, by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health
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