Secondary prevention of VTE: Are oral anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs better?

OBJECTIVE: To summarise and compare the efficacy and safety of various oral anticoagulants (dabigatran, rivaroxaban, apixaban, and vitamin K antagonists) and antiplatelet agents (acetylsalicylic acid) for the secondary prevention of venous thromboembolism.
DESIGN: Systematic review and network meta-analysis.
DATA SOURCES: Literature search using Medline (1950 to present), Embase (1980 to present), and the Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials using the OVID interface. Publications from potentially relevant journals were also searched by hand. REVIEW
METHODS: Randomised controlled trials of patients receiving anticoagulants, antiplatelet drugs, or placebo or observation for secondary prevention of venous thromboembolism. Selected outcomes were rates of recurrent venous thromboembolism and major bleeding. Two reviewers independently extracted data onto standardised forms.
RESULTS: 12 articles met our inclusion criteria, with 11 999 patients evaluated for efficacy and 12 167 for safety. All treatments reduced the risk of recurrent venous thromboembolism. Compared with placebo or observation, vitamin K antagonists at a standard adjusted dose (target international normalised ratio 2.0-3.0) showed the highest risk difference (odds ratio 0.07; 95% credible interval 0.03 to 0.15) and acetylsalicylic acid showed the lowest risk difference (0.65; 0.39 to 1.03). Risk of major bleeding was higher with a standard adjusted dose of vitamin K antagonists (5.24; 1.78 to 18.25) than with placebo or observation. Fatal recurrent venous thromboembolism and fatal bleeding were rare. Detailed subgroup and individual patient level data were not available.
CONCLUSIONS: All oral anticoagulants and antiplatelet agents investigated in this analysis were associated with a reduced recurrence of venous thromboembolism compared with placebo or observation, although acetylsalicylic acid was associated with the lowest risk reduction. Vitamin K antagonists given at a standard adjusted dose was associated with the greatest risk reduction in recurrent venous thromboembolism, but also the greatest risk of major bleeding.
  • Most general practitioners know that newer drugs have lesser bleeding, but they do not know the smaller effect size of new anticoagulant drugs.
  • This review emphasizes something well know in clinical practice. It is important to have this meta-analysis but nothing new is learned.
Castellucci LA, Cameron C, Le Gal G, et al. Efficacy and safety outcomes of oral anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs in the secondary prevention of venous thromboembolism: systematic review and network meta-analysis. BMJ. 2013 Aug 30;347:f5133. doi: 10.1136/bmj.f5133. (Review) PMID: 23996149

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