In the prevention of blood clots in the legs and lungs, a recent study shows that the older, cheaper version of heparin, when given subcutaneously, provides results as good as the newer, more expensive version that is administered through intravenous infusion. Investigators report that the additional cost benefit of the older version is that it does not require continuous monitoring through the activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) test. The study included 697 patients susceptible to thromboembolism treated at 6 medical centers in Canada and New Zealand. All patients received heparin (Coumadin) as treatment; 70% of patients were treated as outpatients. Among those patients given the older version of heparin, 3.8% had recurrent clots, compared with 3.4% of patients receiving the newer version of low-molecular-weight fractionated heparin. The necessity of APTT testing required with the intravenous infusion increases the cost of treatment considerably: a 6-day course of the subcutaneous, older version of heparin would cost $37, compared with $712 for the newer, fractionated heparin. The results were published in the August 23/30, 2006, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.