Long-term comparative effectiveness and safety of dabigatran, rivaroxaban, apixaban and edoxaban in patients with atrial fibrillation: A nationwide cohort study
Background: Although non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) are recommended over vitamin K antagonists (VKAs) in atrial fibrillation (AF) management, direct long-term head-to-head comparisons are lacking. Therefore, their risk-benefit profiles were investigated compared to VKAs and between NOACs. Methods: AF patients initiating anticoagulation between 2013–2019 were identified in Belgian nationwide data. Inverse probability of treatment weighted Cox regression was used to investigate effectiveness and safety outcomes and were additionally stratified by NOAC dose. Results: Among 254,478 AF patients (328,796 person-years of follow-up), NOACs were associated with significantly lower risks of stroke or systemic embolism (stroke/SE) (hazard ratio (HR) 0.68, 95% confidence interval (CI) (0.64–0.72)), all-cause mortality (HR 0.76, 95%CI (0.74–0.79)), major or clinically relevant non-major bleeding (MB/CRNMB) (HR 0.94, 95%CI (0.91–0.98)) and intracranial hemorrhage (HR 0.73, 95%CI (0.66–0.79)), but non-significantly different risks of myocardial infarction, gastrointestinal and urogenital bleeding compared to VKAs. Despite similar stroke/SE risks, dabigatran and apixaban were associated with significantly lower MB/CRNMB risks compared to rivaroxaban (HR 0.86, 95%CI (0.83–0.90); HR 0.86, 95%CI (0.83–0.89), respectively) and edoxaban (HR 0.91, 95%CI (0.83–0.99); HR 0.86, 95%CI (0.81–0.91), respectively), and apixaban with significantly lower major bleeding risks compared to dabigatran (HR 0.86, 95%CI (0.80–0.92)) and edoxaban (HR 0.79, 95%CI (0.72–0.86)). However, higher mortality risks were observed in some risk groups including with apixaban in patients with diabetes or concomitantly using digoxin compared to dabigatran and edoxaban, respectively. Conclusion: NOACs had better long-term risk-benefit profiles than VKAs. While effectiveness was comparable, apixaban was overall associated with a more favorable safety profile followed by dabigatran.