Venous thromboembolism (including deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism) and atrial fibrillation are common conditions in Western countries. The mainstay of treatment and prevention for these diseases is fast-acting anticoagulant drugs such as heparins and vitamin K antagonists. The use of these drugs is, however, complex and demanding for both patients and physicians. Recently, new antithrombotic drugs that act directly by inhibiting activated coagulation factors such as factor X or thrombin have been developed and investigated in phase III clinical trials. The aim of this article is to review: (i) the need to develop new drugs; (ii) their efficacy/safety as demonstrated in clinical trials; (iii) the need for laboratory monitoring and (iv) the direction towards the use of these new drugs in the real-life clinical situation.
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