Warfarin is a prescription medication that is used to slow or interfere with the ability of blood to clot. Normally we would want our blood to clot quickly as a serious cut can kill within a few minutes. For some people a reduction in the blood’s ability to clot outweighs the possibility of a “bleed out”.
Warfarin is often prescribed for those who have clot formation in their legs or lungs or brains. It is often used to prevent these clots in people who exhibit symptoms that might lead to clot formation. For instance, atrial fibrillation(afib) is an irregular heatbeat that may lead to a clot in the heart that might travel to the brain causing a stroke.
In the US an estimated 20 million people are taking Warfarin(aka Coumadin, Jantoven).
Dr. T. Jared Bunch recently presented at a medical conference. He brought forward some troubling findings about the long term use of Warfarin and vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Bunch was the lead researcher of a study at the Intermountain Medical Center in Utah. The research looked at data of 10 000 people some of whom were taking Warfarin. They then checked on those people seven years later. They found that for those that didn’t have atrial fibrillation 1.6% had developed cognitive difficulties. For those with atrial fibrillation and taking Warfarin or its clones 5.8% had developed dementia. If we take the figure of 20 million users in the US alone, this would mean that 1 160 000 people can expect to develop cognitive impairment in the next decade.
“Our study results are the first to show that there are significant cognitive risk factors for patients treated with Warfarin over a long period of time regardless of the indication for anticoagulation." T.Jared Bunch, MD
The Mayo Clinic site is a reliable and useful place to get medical information. They warn about serious bleeding, including brain bleeds, skin necropsy and advise that persons taking the medication consider wearing a medical bracelet. They warn that it is advisable to alert health care providers that Warfarin is being used before procedures, even something as minor as a vaccination.
It is difficult to get a firm figure on world-wide use of this medication, but 1% of the world population has been given in more than one source.
Warfarin was first sold to the public in 1952 as a rat poison. In 1954 it was marketed for humans.
Like any effective medication, unwanted reactions may occur. Before embarking on a new prescription drug be sure to quiz your health care provider closely about possible side effects.
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