Harvard Heart Letter

Take the hassle out of taking warfarin

Less frequent testing or home monitoring may be options.

Despite the recent FDA approval of easier-to-use anticlotting drugs, millions of Americans continue to take warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven, generic) to prevent dangerous blood clots. The most worrisome clots—which can cause a stroke or potentially fatal shutdown of lung function—arise from atrial fibrillation, deep-vein thrombosis, or the presence of an artificial heart valve.

Warfarin is a temperamental drug. Changing your diet, starting or stopping other medications, and your overall health can affect whether it keeps your blood just right, too prone to clotting, or so thin that you run the risk of internal bleeding. That's why all people who take the drug should get periodic blood tests to confirm that their blood is in the right range. However, two recent studies suggest that monitoring warfarin could be less of a hassle.

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