Los Angeles—Pharmacists might want to remind patients prescribed direct-acting oral anticoagulants (DOACS) that they have to be extremely careful when they use OTC products.

A new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society notes that nearly 98% of patients prescribed DOACs such as apixaban also ingested OTC products. UCLA Health Sciences–led researchers warn that 33% of those took at least one such product that, in combination with the anticoagulants, could cause dangerous internal bleeding.

The reason? Patients prescribed the medications often lack knowledge of potentially serious interactions.

The report points out that DOACs have become the drug of choice for stroke prevention in patients with atrial fibrillation, which occurs most frequently in older patients. While apixaban is one of the most frequently prescribed, users of that and other DOACs are not followed regularly in specialized anticoagulation clinics or by healthcare professionals, as is the case with warfarin.

To determine the scope of the problem, the study team surveyed 791 English- and Spanish-speaking patients from April to October 2018 who had been prescribed apixaban. The patients were asked about their knowledge of potential interactions between the drug and OTC supplements. Survey-takers also were questioned about how often they took aspirin, ibuprofen/naproxen, and acetaminophen, and 13 common dietary supplements, including Chinese herbs, various fish oils, ginger, and herbal teas.

“Because such a large number of people lack knowledge of these interactions, there is a need to educate patients and healthcare providers about the dangers that these combinations may pose,” the authors concluded. “In addition, data are needed on outcomes in people combining apixaban and over-the-counter products.”

Researchers say their study was limited by a low response rate (33%), self-reported data, which can be unreliable due to faulty memories, and that the researchers focused on a limited number of dietary supplements.

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