Cost regulators for the National Health Service in Scotland have agreed to fund the use of Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb's blood thinner Eliquis to prevent stroke and embolism.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium has accepted the drug for use in NHS patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF) with one or more risk factors to reduce the risk of stroke or systemic embolism.

The move comes hot on the heels of a recommendation by sister body the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which also deemed Eliquis (apixaban) a cost-effective option for the health service in England and Wales, offering potential benefits over the widely used veteran anticoagulant warfarin.

Over 60,000 people in Scotland aged over 40 years have AF, leaving them five times more likely to suffer from a stroke. 

A large number of these are given warfarin but, while cheap, treatment can be cumbersome - requiring ongoing INR monitoring to test blood clotting risk - and it is also linked with undesirable drug/diet interactions and bleeding risks.

Superior to warfarin

The SMC concluded that Eliquis is superior to warfarin at preventing stroke or systemic embolism, and that the drug was associated with significantly fewer major bleeds.

In addition, it noted that Eliquis requires no therapeutic monitoring, which would cut workload of services associated with warfarin monitoring, and potentially reduce the risks to the patient associated with poor INR control.