Warfarin – brand name Coumadin – is a blood thinner that is prescribed by physicians to patients who are at risk of getting blood clots in various areas of the body. Because it is a blood thinner, warfarin prevents clots from forming or getting worse. It also prevents clots already formed from getting to parts of the body where a block of blood flow is life-threatening, such as hear the lungs or heart.
Some people have suffered serious complications and health problems from taking warfarin. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services recently identified warfarin and related anticoagulants as a drug category with some of the most adverse drug events. If you have suffered such a complication, you could be entitled to a settlement in a warfarin lawsuit. Below is more information.
Dangers and Side Effects Related to Warfarin
The major side effect of warfarin is a higher risk of excessive bleeding. This is true for people generally, but more so among certain populations and conditions:
- 65 years of age or older
- Having low blood count from a medical condition
- Having a medical condition that causes unusual bleeding, including liver problems, kidney problems, cancer, and various gastrointestinal bleeding
- Taking warfarin for long periods of time
- Being given the wrong dosage of warfarin
Hemorrhage is not the only problem associated with warfarin. Some other problems include less dangerous bleeding, including nosebleeds and heavy menstrual bleeding. Some other side effects that warfarin can cause are:
- Pain and swelling
- Headache or dizziness
- Brown or pink urine
- Tissue death (necrosis)
- Head or stomach pain
- Joint pain
- Blood clots in the feet (purple toe syndrome)
- Changes in vision
Warfarin also can cause birth defects in early pregnancy. It is critical to talk to your doctor about pregnancy or possibly getting pregnant if they intend to put you on warfarin. This is also true if you are breastfeeding.
Warfarin also can have dangerous drug interactions with other drugs, supplements, foods and beverages. Your doctor should be aware of all the prescription drugs you take to avoid these dangerous interactions. (NIH.gov)
More information about serious risks with warfarin:
- Bleeding risk: The bleeding risk from this drug is higher where there is unmonitored patient use of aspirin, hemodialysis or antiplatelet drugs. Warfarin use must be carefully monitored by a physician.
- Pregnancy: Warfarin should not be taken during pregnancy. It is able to pass through the placental barrier. It can cause fetal bleeding, stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, neonatal death and miscarriage. Warfarin also contains teratogens that can cause birth defects.
- Alcohol use: Drinking excessive alcohol when taking this drug can affect your metabolism of warfarin and can lead to higher international normalized ratio levels.
- Calcification of blood vessels: Calciphylaxis has been reported in patients who regularly take warfarin with or without end-stage kidney disease. This is a serious and sometimes fatal condition where blood vessels get blocked by calcium buildups that prevent blood from flowing to the internal organs an skin. The lack of blood flow can cause tissue damage and necrosis.
- Kidney injury: The drug is linked to acute kidney injury for patients who have a history of kidney disease. This is possibly due to excessive anticoagulation and blood in the urine. This condition can reveal itself with such symptoms as skin rashes, gangrene in the extremities and kidney failure.
- Warfarin necrosis: In some patients with a blood deficiency of protein C, there could be a higher risk of blood coagulation or clotting, rather than a decrease of clotting times.
Warfarin Dangers Confirmed in Clinical Studies
A clinical study by Quest Diagnostics in 2015 found that patients who take warfarin only had the effect desired in 54% of cases. (NIH.gov). Also, a 2011 study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that warfarin was associated with 33,000 emergency hospitalizations among senior citizens from 2007 to 2009, which is more than double the amount of the next highest drug – insulin.
Also, the incidence of bleeding events associated with taking warfarin was studied in 2011. This was based on reports to the spontaneous reporting system in Norway, according to the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Researchers looked at data on bleeding events with warfarin and looked closely at the time to bleed, use of concomitant drugs and report evaluation.
Researchers found that concomitant use of possibly interacting drugs was involved in many bleeding events associated with warfarin. However, warfarin was determined to be the only contributing factor to bleeding.
Another clinical study released in 2011 in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine showed that using warfarin can be problematic because of a narrow therapeutic index, variable dosage requirements, and major drug, dietary and disease reactions. Researchers also discovered some undiagnosed, changes can boost hemorrhagic complications that are related to warfarin therapy.
A 2007 study published in The American Journal of Medicine showed that residents of nursing homes had 34,000 fatal, life-threatening or serious health events related to taking warfarin.
Potential Physician Liability for Not Monitoring Warfarin Use
Because of the aforementioned health risks associated with warfarin, doctors have a legal obligation to monitor a patient’s use of the drug. If they do not monitor your use of warfarin, medical professionals could be sued for medical malpractice. However, liability is not automatic, and every medical case is different.
Your physician should be doing all of the following if you are taking warfarin. If not, you are at risk for serious health problems:
- Closely monitoring your Internalized Normalized Ratio or INR. This is your anticoagulation level. The difference between a safe dose of warfarin and a lethal one is small. Your doctor should be running regular blood tests on you.
- Ask you for complete patient history. Several factors can increase drug potency, such as liver and kidney function, alcohol consumption, age, and medical history.
- Offer dietary guidance: Warfarin reacts negatively to some foods, so your doctor should talk to you about foods to avoid while on the drug.
- Recognize and manage excessive thinning of the blood: If your INR level is too high or you are showing symptoms of internal bleeding, you should be hospitalized and vitamin K should be administered to reverse the anticoagulant effect.
If your medical provider deviates from the above standard of care and you have suffered an injury while taking warfarin, you could have a valid warfarin claim or lawsuit.
In March 2019, a settlement was reached for lawsuits filed by patients who had bleeding injuries from taking Xarelto, another prescription blood thinner similar to Warfarin. Bayer Healthcare and Janssen Pharmaceuticals agreed to pay $775 million to resolve 25,000 state and federal lawsuits.
The lawsuits alleged Xarelto patients suffered injuries from taking the blood thinner, including internal bleeding, stroke, and death. The lawsuits claimed the drug manufacturers downplayed the risks of the blood thinner and aggressively sold the drug as a safer alternative for warfarin.
Speak to a Warfarin Lawsuit Attorney Today
If you or a loved one were injured by warfarin, including blood clots or uncontrolled bleeding, you may be eligible for compensation in a personal injury or product liability lawsuit. You could be entitled to compensation for your losses, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, disability, wage loss or death. Please contact our law office for more information.
- Warfarin: Almost 60 Years Old and Still Causing Problems. (2006). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1885167/
- National Assessment of Warfarin Anticoagulation Therapy. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24493817