Reversal strategies in patients treated with direct oral anticoagulants.
Administration of direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) for the treatment of venous thrombotic events (VTE) or non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF) is now standard of care and has demonstrated clinical efficacy and safety in numerous clinical studies. Usually these substances have lower overall mortality and less risk of cerebral hemorrhage, but depending on the substance and study, they are more likely to cause gastrointestinal bleeding than vitamin K antagonists (VKA), the medication that used to be standard for VTE and AF. Since DOACs have very short plasma elimination half-lives compared to VKA, for most bleeding events, expert opinions suggest that withdrawal of DOACs and supportive care will likely suffice to stop a bleeding episode. Because there is a bleeding risk associated with DOACs, reversal strategies may be needed if a patient receiving DOAC therapy bleeds during surgery or an invasive procedure. So far, idarucizumab has been the only available antidote that binds specifically to dabigatran and safely and quickly reverses its anticoagulant effects. Idarucizumab has no effects on anti Xa inhibitors or other anticoagulants. To date, treatment of serious, life-threatening bleeds in patients with anti-Xa-inhibitor has involved 4 factor prothrombin complex concentrates (PCC). PCC restores normal hemostasis laboratory values in most patients with major bleeding events after anti Xa inhibitor intake. Recently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved andexanet alfa as the first specific antidote for the anti-Xa inhibitors apixaban and rivaroxaban. So far clinical experience with this substance and data comparing it with PCC are lacking. Currently ciraparantag is under investigation as a universal reversal agent for all DOACs and low molecular weight heparin as well. Because it is so broadly applicable, ciraparantag might be a good future option for the management of most bleeding complications under anticoagulant treatment. The aim of this review is to summarize recent study data and recommendations on nonspecific and specific DOAC reversal strategies and to present the current evidence.