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I was watching TV the other night when an advertisement came on that caught my eye. As well it should; the ad was for Pradaxa, the blood thinner that has been linked to hundreds of deaths.

As we've written about before, Pradaxa (dabigatran) is Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals much ballyhooed alternative to Coumadin (warfarin). It was approved to reduce the risk of stroke and blood clots in October, 2010 for patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation. However, this past December 7, the FDA issued a safety warning. The review was prompted by reports of "serious bleeding events" in people taking the drug.

Not only that, but recent findings by researchers at the renowned Cleveland Clinic show patients taking Pradaxa have a 33% higher risk of heart attack or severe symptoms of heart disease than do patients taking warfarin.

Yet in spite of all the warnings the advertisements continue!

Oh, the ad was accompanied by various disclaimers: in a screen overlay with type too small to read, accompanied by a too pleasant, upbeat voice-over reciting risks and dangers – all playing out over a visual of happy people (presumably users of Pradaxa) frolicking about.

What I find most disturbing is that if the ads work, and more people request Pradaxa, the studies indicate that odds are a number of them will suffer complications – and some may even die. Through August 2011, approximately 1.1 million prescriptions for Pradaxa have been dispensed to some 371,000 patients in the United States. Of that number Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals is acknowledging at least 260 deaths associated with the use of Pradaxa, and those numbers are just from patients currently taking the drug.

Given all of the known risks, to say nothing of the ones yet to be discovered, it is incredible to me that these ads are airing. And yet they are, so it is perhaps timely to repeat a few warnings:

If you or a loved one taking Pradaxa has experienced side effects such as:

Severe bleeding or you bleeding that cannot be controlled

Blood in urine or stools

Bruises that occur easily or appear without a cause

Coughing up or vomiting blood

Contact your doctor immediately to discuss your medical options. You may also have a claim against the makers of Pradaxa, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, and we would be happy to discuss it with you at no charge.

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