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NOACs benefit early stage chronic kidney disease patients

Key clinical point: Non–vitamin K oral anticoagulants (NOACs) were superior to vitamin K antagonists (VKAs) for patients with early-stage chronic kidney disease.

Major finding: Among patients with atrial fibrillation, NOACs significantly reduced the risk of stroke or systemic embolism compared with VKAs (risk ratio, 0.79).

Study details: The data come from a meta-analysis of 45 trials including 34,082 individuals.

Disclosures: Lead author Dr. Ha is supported by a University Postgraduate Award from University of New South Wales, Sydney, but had no financial conflicts to disclose; coauthors disclosed support from various organizations as well as pharmaceutical companies including Baxter, Amgen, Eli Lilly, Boehringer Ingelheim, Vifor Pharma, Janssen, Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and GlaxoSmithKline.


Ha JT et al. Ann Intern Med. 2019 July 15. doi: 10.7326/M19-0087


The significant reduction in risk of hemorrhagic stroke, recurrent venous thromboembolism, and VTE-related deaths in patients with early-stage chronic kidney disease given a NOAC [non–vitamin K oral anticoagulants] in a meta-analysis supports clinical application, but is there a level of renal dysfunction for which clinicians should apply greater caution in extrapolating these findings? As the evidence supporting the safety and effectiveness of NOACs in the general population increases, there is a renewed interest in defining the role of anticoagulant therapy to prevent stroke and VTE in patients with chronic kidney disease and end-stage kidney disease. This interest is driven in part by uncertainty as to the benefits vs. harms of warfarin for patients with chronic kidney disease. The data in the meta-analysis by Ha and colleagues do not support any benefits for patients with end-stage disease, but the results of two ongoing clinical trials of patients with atrial fibrillation and end-stage kidney disease may offer insights.

Until the results of these trials become available, the decision to use anticoagulant therapy in patients with end-stage kidney disease will continue to require an individualized approach that balances potential benefits and harms.

Ainslie Hildebrand, MD, of University of Alberta, Edmonton; Christine Ribic, MD, of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont.; and Deborah Zimmerman, MD, of the University of Ottawa, made these comments in an accompanying editorial (Ann Intern Med. 2019 July 15. doi:10.7326/M19-1504). Dr. Ribic disclosed grants from Pfizer, Leo Pharma, and Astellas Pharma. Dr. Hildebrand and Dr. Zimmerman had no financial conflicts to disclose.