Pradaxa linked to increased risk of viral infections

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by Heygood Orr and Pearson

The anticoagulant Pradaxa may increase the risk and severity of viral flu infections, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina. A study that reported on the team’s findings was published in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Pradaxa is a blood thinning medication that works by blocking the activity of thrombin, a type of protein that helps blood clots to form in the body. Pradaxa is prescribed to patients with a type of irregular heartbeat known as non-valvular atrial fibrillation, which can cause deadly blood clots to form in the body.

According to the study, patients taking Pradaxa experienced an increased risk and severity of symptoms for the flu and myocarditis—a potentially fatal type of heart infection. Researchers found that “blocking thrombin reduces the innate immune response to viral infection,” according to Dr. Nigel Mackman, a senior author of the study.

News about the link between Pradaxa and an increased risk of viral infections comes at a time when concerns have already been raised about the health risks associated with taking the bloodthinning drug. The Food and Drug Administration received more than 4,000 reports of serious adverse events and 550 deaths among patients taking Pradaxa in 2011 alone—including many cases involving excess bleeding caused by the drug. More than 250 Pradaxa lawsuits have been filed by patients or their families who suffered excess bleeding after taking the drug.