Mayo Clinic, Optum Collaboration Yields New Insights on Risks of Blood-thinners
For heart patients on blood-thinning drugs — especially the long-standard warfarin treatment — there’s always been a risk of kidney damage. Now, however, a research collaboration between Mayo Clinic and UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Optum Inc., has found that other kinds of blood-thinners are easier on the kidneys.
OptumLabs, a collaboration established in 2013 between UnitedHealth/Optum, Mayo and AARP as an open research center, supplied data from the deidentified records of 9,769 patients from its health insurance “data warehouse,” while a Mayo team led by cardiologist Peter Noseworthy, M.D., conducted the research with funding from the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery.
Results published late last month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology indicated for the first time that the use of a new class of “non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants,” such as apixaban, dabigatran and rivaroxaban, resulted in less adverse consequences for kidney function than warfarin, which is commonly prescribed to patients suffering from atrial fibrillation.
“We found that non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants, as a group, were associated with reduced risk of adverse kidney outcomes,” Noseworthy said in a released statement, adding that the findings will have “important implications for medical practice.”
Mayo research colleague Xiaoxi Yao said their work is “among the first few studies confirming the hypothesis” that because non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants have a different drug mechanism than warfarin, their use in patients with atrial fibrillation would result in “better renal outcomes.”
By studying the data provided by OptumLabs, the Mayo team found that about one in four atrial fibrillation patients had significantly reduced kidney function within two years of being placed on blood-thinning medications, with one in seven patients suffering “acute kidney injury.”
The researchers, however, then took their analysis it a step further and separated out the patients taking non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants from those taking warfarin, finding former resulted in less kidney stress than the latter.
The findings were made possible, they said, due to the unique and vast resources of the OptumLabs Data Warehouse, which includes deidentified records of more than 160 million privately insured individuals and Medicare patients of all ages and races that are from the United States.
This massive data source is comprised of deidentified insurance claims, socioeconomic information, electronic health records and consumer behavior data, thus enabling researchers to investigate across a much broader patient base than previously available, with the aim of producing more generalizable and reliable findings.