I admit it. I couldn’t live without my daily drugs. Every day I take 5 to 7.5 milligrams of rat poison. Yesterday I had a long talk with a fellow rat poison user. That’s 3-(alpha-acetonylbenzyl)-4-hydroxycoumarin for you chemists out there. (More info here, if you want to learn how it works.)
You don’t pop rat poison without a few side effects. I’ve experienced swelling, bleeding from a cut that does not stop in the usual amount of time, nosebleed, unusual bruising, headache, dizziness, purplish skin, chills, numbness, and weakness. I have not experienced “painful erection of the penis that lasts for hours” but maybe my dosage if off.
I told my pill-popping pal that big pharma was coming up with new and safer drugs for us. He wanted to know more.
Lo and behold, the business section of this morning’s New York Times had a big article on our drug. They must be jumping for joy at Bristol-Myers Squibb, for this may bring in $10 billion a year from users like me:
The company’s experimental anticoagulant drug apixaban worked better than aspirin in preventing stroke and systemic blood clots for patients who have a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation, according to new study data presented on Tuesday morning at a cardiology conference in Stockholm.
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Another article in today’s Times explains why cardiologists prescribe this awful drug.
The standard treatment for people with atrial fibrillation is warfarin, a powerful 60-year-old drug that originated as a rat poison. Warfarin, a generic drug also sold under the brand name Coumadin, is highly effective but it has drawbacks.
Because too high a dose of warfarin can lead to bleeding, patients taking the pills need regular blood tests to determine how fast their blood is clotting. Meanwhile, the potency of warfarin can fluctuate if a patient takes common prescription drugs like antibiotics or if patients start eating more spinach or other foods rich in vitamin K.
Or if you drink alcohol one day and not the next. Or eat too many Brussels sprouts.
The bottom line here is that imbibing rat poison reduces the odds of having a stroke. It’s the lesser of two evils. I have a heart condition called a-fib.
Here’s a great overview of A-fib, the heart disorder that makes my risk of stroke (if I don’t take my rat poison) five to six times higher than yours.
The biggest danger from A-Fib is stroke. Because your heart isn’t pumping out properly, blood can pool in your atria, particularly in the Left Atrial Appendage. Blood clots can form and travel to the brain causing stroke.
Researchers estimate that 35% of patients with A-Fib will suffer a stroke107 (unless treated).
The American Heart Association states that A-Fib is a major cause of stroke, especially if you’re older. It estimates that 15% of strokes come from untreated A-Fib. An A-Fib stroke is worse than other causes of stroke. Half of all strokes associated with atrial fibrillation are major and disabling.168 23% of A-Fib stroke patients die, and 44% suffer significant neurologic damage. This compares to only an 8% mortality rate from other causes of stroke.132, 166
There is also a danger of “silent” A-Fib strokes where stroke effects aren’t evident but may appear like attention deficit, forgetfulness, and senile dementia.72 Silent A-Fib is very common. Up to 30% of A-Fib patients are unaware they have A-Fib.140 25% of those who suffered an A-Fib stroke had no prior diagnosis of A-Fib.141,142
Anticoagulant rodenticides were first discovered in the 1940 s and have since become the most widely used toxicants for commensal rodent control. Rodents poisoned with anticoagulants die from internal bleeding, the result of loss of the blood s clotting ability and damage to the capillaries. Prior to death, the animal exhibits increasing weakness due to blood loss, though appetite and body weight are not specifically affected. Because anticoagulant baits are slow in action (several days following the ingestion of a lethal dose), the target animal is unable to associate its illness with the bait eaten.