What is Coumadin (warfarin)?
Warfarin is an anticoagulant used for the prevention of blood clots forming within blood vessels. It is most commonly sold under the brand name Coumadin. It was originally created as a pesticide for rats and other rodents, but was found to be safe in human usage as an anticoagulant in lower doses. It is still sometimes used as pesticide against rats while also being the most popular anticoagulant prescribed in America. It achieves it anticoagulant properties through a mechanism of action which prevents the blood from being able to clot. Though its ability to thin the blood is helpful for preventing blood clots, it can lead to dangerous amounts of blood loss from normally harmless cuts and abrasions.
Coumadin (warfarin) mechanism of action
Though warfarin is often referred to as a blood thinner it does not actually thin the blood like other anticoagulants do. Warfarin achieves its anticoagulant effects through messing with the mechanisms which allow blood to properly clot. It does this through inhibiting the vitamin K synthesis chain which is responsible for producing many of the enzymes which are necessary for proper blood clotting to occur. It inhibits the production of several proteins which are also integral to the blood clotting system. Warfarin also stops the production of some proteins which are not involved in the formation of blood clots. Warfarin's effects on clotting are not seen immediately. This is because the body keeps stores of the proteins and other compounds that are used for clotting. Warfarin produces broken versions of these proteins and compounds that are not used by the blood until all of the previously made proteins and compounds are already used up.
What is Coumadin (warfarin) used for?
Warfarin is used for preventing blood clotting known as thrombosis. It is effective at doing this because of its ability to inhibit how well the blood is able to form clots. It is not as effective at removing clots in areas where blood is flowing at a rapid rate. For this purpose doctors will generally use other sorts of anticoagulant medications. Warfarin is not used as frequently after heart attacks to prevent blood clots as other anticoagulants. The anticoagulants used to prevent blood clots after a heart attack usually belong to the antiplatelet class of medications. Warfarin has also been useful in treating antiphospholipid syndrome. Antiphospholipid syndrome is an autoimmune disease which results in the formation of blood clots due to antibodies attacking proteins which are vital to maintaining the correct viscosity of the blood. Warfarin helps to balance out the damage done by these antibodies and thereby prevents clots from forming.
Coumadin (warfarin) half-life
Warfarin has a very long half-life of approximately 40 hours. This allows it to only need be taken once a day. It also means that after the last dose is taken you will still be under the influence of the drug for up to a couple of days. Care should be taken during this period no avoiding breaking the skin as the blood will still not be back to its full clotting abilities.