Thousands to be spared strokes as life-saving drug rolled out to 610,000 more patients

THOUSANDS of strokes and deaths could be prevented with blood thinning drugs rolled out to 610,000 more patients.

The NHS plans to scale up use of direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) – the life-saving drugs that can avert strokes.

They work by treating and preventing blood clots in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF), a condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate.

Speaking at NHS Providers conference, NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard said: “The agreements struck by NHS England will save thousands of lives and prevent many more people suffering the debilitating effects of strokes by making this treatment available to hundreds of thousands more patients.

“The health service now has a proven track record of striking deals with manufacturers to ensure patients in England get cutting-edge care at a price which offers best value for taxpayers.

“As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, tackle the backlogs of care which have been created and maintain momentum in the NHS Covid vaccination programme, we are also determined to keep delivering more innovation and greater efficiency in patients’ care.”

As well as expanding the use of drugs NHSX is also using cutting edge technology to diagnose those with potentially fatal heart conditions, the NHS chief told the NHS Providers conference.

In a pilot, more than 5,000 people were given wearable patches using AI technology to monitor their heart rate, diagnosing potentially fatal conditions.

The technology provides clinicians with all the information they need to make a quick diagnosis and start treatment – without the need for patients to undergo lots of tests and hospital visits.

The agreement on DOACs comes after NICE recommended the drugs as being more effective for the prevention of AF-related stroke than other anticoagulants.

Up to £40 million investment will also be made in ‘Detect, Protect and Perfect’ pathway initiatives which will also help identify people with AF and move them onto effective and appropriate treatment.

NHS England national specialty adviser for cardiovascular disease prevention Helen Williams said: “The new agreement for these drugs is good news for the estimated 1.5 million people in England with atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heart rhythm that causes one in five strokes. 

“Not only is stroke one of the biggest killers in our country, but it leads to life-changing and often devastating long-term harm for many others, so by ensuring these drugs are made available for all people with AF who are at risk of stroke, the NHS will not only prevent serious harm to the people affected, but avoid the need for aftercare which puts additional pressure on the health service.

“Tackling heart disease and stroke is a top priority in the NHS Long Term Plan, which will save thousands of lives by better diagnosis and treatment for people with killer conditions.”

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