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COUMADIN can cause major or fatal bleeding. Bleeding is more likely to occur within the first month. Risk factors for bleeding include high intensity of anticoagulation (INR > 4.0), age greater than or equal to 65, history of highly variable INRs, history of gastrointestinal bleeding, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, anemia, malignancy, trauma, renal impairment, certain genetic factors [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY], certain concomitant drugs [see DRUG INTERACTIONS], and long duration of warfarin therapy.
Perform regular monitoring of INR in all treated patients. Those at high risk of bleeding may benefit from more frequent INR monitoring, careful dose adjustment to desired INR, and a shortest duration of therapy appropriate for the clinical condition. However, maintenance of INR in the therapeutic range does not eliminate the risk of bleeding.
Drugs, dietary changes, and other factors affect INR levels achieved with COUMADIN therapy. Perform more frequent INR monitoring when starting or stopping other drugs, including botanicals, or when changing dosages of other drugs [see DRUG INTERACTIONS].
Instruct patients about prevention measures to minimize risk of bleeding and to report signs and symptoms of bleeding [see PATIENT INFORMATION].
Necrosis and/or gangrene of skin and other tissues is an uncommon but serious risk ( < 0.1%). Necrosis may be associated with local thrombosis and usually appears within a few days of the start of COUMADIN therapy. In severe cases of necrosis, treatment through debridement or amputation of the affected tissue, limb, breast, or penis has been reported.
Careful clinical evaluation is required to determine whether necrosis is caused by an underlying disease. Although various treatments have been attempted, no treatment for necrosis has been considered uniformly effective. Discontinue COUMADIN therapy if necrosis occurs. Consider alternative drugs if continued anticoagulation therapy is necessary.
Systemic Atheroemboli and Cholesterol Microemboli
Anticoagulation therapy with COUMADIN may enhance the release of atheromatous plaque emboli. Systemic atheroemboli and cholesterol microemboli can present with a variety of signs and symptoms depending on the site of embolization. The most commonly involved visceral organs are the kidneys followed by the pancreas, spleen, and liver. Some cases have progressed to necrosis or death. A distinct syndrome resulting from microemboli to the feet is known as “purple toes syndrome.” Discontinue COUMADIN therapy if such phenomena are observed. Consider alternative drugs if continued anticoagulation therapy is necessary.
Do not use COUMADIN as initial therapy in patients with heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) and with heparin-induced thrombocytopenia with thrombosis syndrome (HITTS). Cases of limb ischemia, necrosis, and gangrene have occurred in patients with HIT and HITTS when heparin treatment was discontinued and warfarin therapy was started or continued. In some patients, sequelae have included amputation of the involved area and/or death. Treatment with COUMADIN may be considered after the platelet count has normalized.
Use in Pregnant Women with Mechanical Heart Valves
COUMADIN can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. While COUMADIN is contraindicated during pregnancy, the potential benefits of using COUMADIN may outweigh the risks for pregnant women with mechanical heart valves at high risk of thromboembolism. In those individual situations, the decision to initiate or continue COUMADIN should be reviewed with the patient, taking into consideration the specific risks and benefits pertaining to the individual patient's medical situation, as well as the most current medical guidelines. COUMADIN exposure during pregnancy causes a recognized pattern of major congenital malformations (warfarin embryopathy and fetotoxicity), fatal fetal hemorrhage, and an increased risk of spontaneous abortion and fetal mortality. If this drug is used during pregnancy, or if the patient becomes pregnant while taking this drug, the patient should be apprised of the potential hazard to a fetus [see Use In Specific Populations].
Females of Reproductive Potential
COUMADIN exposure during pregnancy can cause pregnancy loss, birth defects, or fetal death. Discuss pregnancy planning with females of reproductive potential who are on COUMADIN therapy [see CONTRAINDICATIONS and Use In Specific Populations].
Other Clinical Settings with Increased Risks
In the following clinical settings, the risks of COUMADIN therapy may be increased:
- Moderate to severe hepatic impairment
- Infectious diseases or disturbances of intestinal flora (e.g., sprue, antibiotic therapy)
- Use of an indwelling catheter
- Severe to moderate hypertension
- Deficiency in protein C-mediated anticoagulant response: COUMADIN reduces the synthesis of the naturally occurring anticoagulants, protein C and protein S. Hereditary or acquired deficiencies of protein C or its cofactor, protein S, have been associated with tissue necrosis following warfarin administration. Concomitant anticoagulation therapy with heparin for 5 to 7 days during initiation of therapy with COUMADIN may minimize the incidence of tissue necrosis in these patients.
- Eye surgery: In cataract surgery, COUMADIN use was associated with a significant increase in minor complications of sharp needle and local anesthesia block but not associated with potentially sight-threatening operative hemorrhagic complications. As COUMADIN cessation or reduction may lead to serious thromboembolic complications, the decision to discontinue COUMADIN before a relatively less invasive and complex eye surgery, such as lens surgery, should be based upon the risks of anticoagulant therapy weighed against the benefits.
- Polycythemia vera
- Diabetes mellitus
Endogenous Factors Affecting INR
The following factors may be responsible for increased INR response: diarrhea, hepatic disorders, poor nutritional state, steatorrhea, or vitamin K deficiency.
The following factors may be responsible for decreased INR response: increased vitamin K intake or hereditary warfarin resistance.
Patient Counseling Information
See FDA-approved patient labeling (Medication Guide).
Advise patients to:
- Tell their physician if they fall often as this may increase their risk for complications.
- Strictly adhere to the prescribed dosage schedule. Do not take or discontinue any other drug, including salicylates (e.g., aspirin and topical analgesics), other over-the-counter drugs, and botanical (herbal) products except on advice of your physician.
- Notify their physician immediately if any unusual bleeding or symptoms occur. Signs and symptoms of bleeding include: pain, swelling or discomfort, prolonged bleeding from cuts, increased menstrual flow or vaginal bleeding, nosebleeds, bleeding of gums from brushing, unusual bleeding or bruising, red or dark brown urine, red or tar black stools, headache, dizziness, or weakness.
- Contact their doctor
- immediately if they think they are pregnant
- to discuss pregnancy planning
- if they are considering breast-feeding
- Avoid any activity or sport that may result in traumatic injury.
- Obtain prothrombin time tests and make regular visits to their physician or clinic to monitor therapy.
- Carry identification stating that they are taking COUMADIN.
- If the prescribed dose of COUMADIN is missed, take the dose as soon as possible on the same day but do not take a double dose of COUMADIN the next day to make up for missed doses.
- Eat a normal, balanced diet to maintain a consistent intake of vitamin K. Avoid drastic changes in dietary habits, such as eating large amounts of leafy, green vegetables.
- Contact their physician to report any serious illness, such as severe diarrhea, infection, or fever.
- Be aware that if therapy with COUMADIN is discontinued, the anticoagulant effects of COUMADIN may persist for about 2 to 5 days.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
Carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, or fertility studies have not been performed with warfarin.
Use In Specific Populations
Pregnancy Category D for women with mechanical heart valves [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS] and Pregnancy Category X for other pregnant populations [see CONTRAINDICATIONS].
COUMADIN is contraindicated in women who are pregnant except in pregnant women with mechanical heart valves, who are at high risk of thromboembolism, and for whom the benefits of COUMADIN may outweigh the risks. COUMADIN can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. COUMADIN exposure during pregnancy causes a recognized pattern of major congenital malformations (warfarin embryopathy), fetal hemorrhage, and an increased risk of spontaneous abortion and fetal mortality. The reproductive and developmental effects of COUMADIN have not been evaluated in animals. If this drug is used during pregnancy or if the patient becomes pregnant while taking this drug, the patient should be apprised of the potential hazard to the fetus.
In humans, warfarin crosses the placenta, and concentrations in fetal plasma approach the maternal values. Exposure to warfarin during the first trimester of pregnancy caused a pattern of congenital malformations in about 5% of exposed offspring. Warfarin embryopathy is characterized by nasal hypoplasia with or without stippled epiphyses (chondrodysplasia punctata) and growth retardation (including low birth weight). Central nervous system and eye abnormalities have also been reported, including dorsal midline dysplasia characterized by agenesis of the corpus callosum, Dandy-Walker malformation, midline cerebellar atrophy, and ventral midline dysplasia characterized by optic atrophy. Mental retardation, blindness, schizencephaly, microcephaly, hydrocephalus, and other adverse pregnancy outcomes have been reported following warfarin exposure during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy [see CONTRAINDICATIONS and WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Based on published data in 15 nursing mothers, warfarin was not detected in human milk. Among the 15 full-term newborns, 6 nursing infants had documented prothrombin times within the expected range. Prothrombin times were not obtained for the other 9 nursing infants. Monitor breast-feeding infants for bruising or bleeding. Effects in premature infants have not been evaluated. Caution should be exercised when COUMADIN is administered to a nursing woman.
Adequate and well-controlled studies with COUMADIN have not been conducted in any pediatric population, and the optimum dosing, safety, and efficacy in pediatric patients is unknown. Pediatric use of COUMADIN is based on adult data and recommendations, and available limited pediatric data from observational studies and patient registries. Pediatric patients administered COUMADIN should avoid any activity or sport that may result in traumatic injury.
The developing hemostatic system in infants and children results in a changing physiology of thrombosis and response to anticoagulants. Dosing of warfarin in the pediatric population varies by patient age, with infants generally having the highest, and adolescents having the lowest milligram per kilogram dose requirements to maintain target INRs. Because of changing warfarin requirements due to age, concomitant medications, diet, and existing medical condition, target INR ranges may be difficult to achieve and maintain in pediatric patients, and more frequent INR determinations are recommended. Bleeding rates varied by patient population and clinical care center in pediatric observational studies and patient registries.
Infants and children receiving vitamin K-supplemented nutrition, including infant formulas, may be resistant to warfarin therapy, while human milk-fed infants may be sensitive to warfarin therapy.
Of the total number of patients receiving warfarin sodium in controlled clinical trials for which data were available for analysis, 1885 patients (24.4%) were 65 years and older, while 185 patients (2.4%) were 75 years and older. No overall differences in effectiveness or safety were observed between these patients and younger patients, but greater sensitivity of some older individuals cannot be ruled out.
Patients 60 years or older appear to exhibit greater than expected INR response to the anticoagulant effects of warfarin [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY]. COUMADIN is contraindicated in any unsupervised patient with senility. Observe caution with administration of COUMADIN to elderly patients in any situation or with any physical condition where added risk of hemorrhage is present. Consider lower initiation and maintenance doses of COUMADIN in elderly patients [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].
Renal clearance is considered to be a minor determinant of anticoagulant response to warfarin. No dosage adjustment is necessary for patients with renal impairment.
Hepatic impairment can potentiate the response to warfarin through impaired synthesis of clotting factors and decreased metabolism of warfarin. Use caution when using COUMADIN in these patients.
Females of Reproductive Potential
COUMADIN exposure during pregnancy can cause spontaneous abortion, birth defects, or fetal death. Females of reproductive potential who are candidates for COUMADIN therapy should be counseled regarding the benefits of therapy and potential reproductive risks. Discuss pregnancy planning with females of reproductive potential who are on COUMADIN therapy. If the patient becomes pregnant while taking COUMADIN, she should be apprised of the potential risks to the fetus.
Last reviewed on RxList: 10/2/2012
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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