Anticoagulation prescribing guidance

Management of anticoagulation during the COVID-19 pandemic

NHS England: Specific information regarding the management of anticoagulant services (from NHS England (NHSE)) during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can be found here.

Information contained in the document includes:

  • advice on patients who might be suitable for switching to DOACs (page 3),
    • and those who should not be considered (page 4)
  • advice on INR monitoring and the potential for self-testing (page 5)
  • guidance on DOAC prescribing for non-valvular AF and DVT/PE, detailing renal function and baseline checks (page 10),
    • and monitoring/ review of renal profile (page 13)
  • a pragmatic approach to stopping warfarin and starting a DOAC (page 12)
  • a DOAC counselling checklist (page 14)

Information and support for patients:

NICE Covid-19 rapid guideline (NG186): reducing the risk of venous thromboembolism in over 16s with Covid-19. This guideline covers pharmacological venous thromboembolism prophylaxis for all patients being treated for COVID-19 pneumonia. It includes patients receiving treatment in hospital or in a community setting with input from hospital clinicians such as a 'hospital at home' service or COVID-19 'virtual ward'. Specific guidance is referenced for women who are pregnant or have given birth within the last 6 weeks. Please see here

MHRA advice (October 2020): Warfarin and other anticoagulants – monitoring of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please see here

Standard formulary clinical guidance on anticoagulation


Formulary Guidance: Management of suspected deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE)

Atrial Fibrillation

2016 (4th Edition) guidance on Non-vitamin K oral anticoagulants for the prevention of stroke and systemic embolism in Atrial Fibrillation, published by the South West Cardiovascular Strategic Clinical Network, can be accessed here

Formulary Guidance:Management of Atrial Fibrillation

Patient selection – DOAC versus warfarin

Discuss the relative risks and benefits of warfarin and Direct-acting oral anticoagulants (DOACs) with patients, with particular reference to the level of INR control.

Categories of patients in whom DOACs may be a useful option:

  1. People not taking warfarin because of allergy or intolerance, or where routine INR monitoring may be impractical (monitoring of renal and/or liver function is still required).
  2. People currently taking warfarin who, despite evidence of good compliance with medication and monitoring, have poor anticoagulant control.
    1. Patients should be reviewed individually, taking into consideration their time in the therapeutic range (TTR) on warfarin, to decide whether a DOAC would be an appropriate option. Measures known to improve TTR (such as self-testing or self-management, using a NICE-recommended point-of-care device such as Coaguchek® or INRatio2 PT/INR®) may be the preferred option for some people
    2. Poor anticoagulant control is defined in the NICE AF Clinical Guideline CG180 . NICE recommends that anticoagulant quality is reviewed at least annually.
    3. When reassessing anticoagulation with warfarin, take into account and if possible address the following factors that may contribute to poor anticoagulation control:
      • cognitive function
      • adherence/compliance to prescribed therapy. The yellow NPSA Oral Anticoagulant Therapy information pack may be used to support patient education in patients prescribed warfarin.
      • illness
      • interacting drug therapy
      • lifestyle factors including diet and alcohol consumption
      • access to monitoring, consider domiciliary monitoring for those who cannot travel
    4. Under-anticoagulation due to compliance problems may be more of a concern with a DOAC than with warfarin, given DOACs' much shorter half-life. The dose regimen (irrespective of treatment chosen) should be as simple as possible.
  3. People at risk of drug interactions.
    1. A DOAC may be useful where concomitant medication increases the risk of interaction with warfarin.
    2. The main interactions of the DOACs are with P-gp inhibitors and inducers, (refer to BNF/SPC ). They should either be avoided or where appropriate, have the dose reduced. Where there is caution or uncertainty about an interaction, the ability to monitor and adjust the warfarin dose based on the INR may make it the preferable anticoagulant.
    3. Always refer to the manufacturers SPC and BNF for specific interactions.
  4. People who have never taken warfarin.
    1. Patients are not obliged to have a trial of warfarin but prescribers and patients may feel that a well-established drug may be a more appropriate choice.
    2. Patients with stable, good INR control (an annual TTR of greater than 65%) are much less likely to gain any clinical benefit by switching from warfarin to a DOAC. However the NICE guidance states that even people with very good control should not be refused a DOAC as a potential treatment option. Local expert opinion would be that this category would not be a priority for active switching.

Warfarin may be the preferred option for people who have an eGFR less than 30 mL/min/1.73m2.

DOAC monitoring

Dosing regimen guidance can be viewed under the individual drug monographs – see 2.8.2 Oral anticoagulants

  • With all the DOACs drug accumulation can occur with impaired renal function.
  • Renal function should be checked prior to initiation and monitored when necessary, such as when other drugs with renal effects are introduced or altered, or with dehydration/vomiting/diarrhoea.
  • Renal function should be monitored at least annually in patients older than 75 years and in those with renal impairment.
  • Liver function may need to be checked prior to initiation and periodically during ongoing treatment. Please refer to individual product SPCs for more info.

DOACs and renal impairment

DOACs are associated with increased risk of serious haemorrhage in patients with renal impairment. Assessment of renal function for DOAC use should be based upon creatinine clearance calculated using the Cockcroft-Gault formula.

MHRA Drug Safety Update (October 2019): Using the appropriate estimate of renal function to avoid the risk of adverse drug reactions

Since eGFR is normalised to a standard body surface area (BSA) of 1.73m2, there is the potential for under, or over-dosing patients at extremes of body weight (BMI of less than 18.5 kg/m2 or greater than 30 kg/m2). This is particularly important for people with reduced muscle mass, including the frail, elderly, or critically ill. Use the Cockcroft & Gault formula to calculate creatinine clearance for determining dose adjustment for DOACs in patients with renal impairment. In all DOAC studies renal function has been expressed in terms of CrCl, no dose recommendation can be made in terms of eGFR.

The Cockcroft & Gault formula:

Estimated Creatinine Clearance (mL/minute) = (140 – Ageyrs) x *MassKg x Constant# / Serum Creatinine

*Weight (mass) - use actual body weight in the calculation. (In underweight patients, actual body weight should still be used. In overweight patients, ideal body weight should be used)

#Constant= 1.23 for men, 1.04 in women

Applications such as MDCalc calculate the CockCroft-Gault CrCl value. If actual body weight and height are added, the different methods of adjusting for weight can be seen giving a range of possible values for CrCl.

Most GP clinical systems have inbuilt calculators to determine CrCl from a creatinine value.

For dose adjustments required in renal impairment, refer to individual drug entries (2.8.2 Oral anticoagulants):

  • Apixaban
  • Dabigatran
  • Edoxaban
  • Rivaroxaban

Switching between DOACs and other anticoagulant in DVT

From warfarin to DOAC

  • Apixaban: discontinue warfarin. Start apixaban when INR is below 2.0
  • Dabigatran: discontinue warfarin. Start dabigatran once INR is below 2.0
  • Edoxaban: discontinue warfarin. Start edoxaban once INR is 2.5 or below
  • Rivaroxaban: discontinue warfarin. Start rivaroxaban once INR is 2 to 3.

From low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) to DOAC

  • Apixaban: Stop LMWH. Start apixaban at the time of the next scheduled LMWH dose. They should not be administered simultaneously.
  • Dabigatran: Stop LMWH. Start dabigatran 0-2 hours before the next due dose time of LMWH, or at the time of discontinuation in case of continuous treatment (e.g. intravenous Unfractionated Heparin (UFH))
  • Edoxaban: Stop LMWH. Start edoxaban at the time of the next scheduled dose of LMWH. Where unfractionated heparin infusion being used, stop infusion and wait four hours before starting edoxaban
  • Rivaroxaban: Stop LMWH. Start rivaroxaban 0-2 hours before the next due dose time of LMWH, or at the time of discontinuation in case of continuous treatment (e.g. intravenous unfractionated Heparin (UFH))

From DOAC to Warfarin

  • Apixaban: Continue apixaban for at least 2 days after starting warfarin. Check INR prior to the next scheduled dose of apixaban; continue apixaban until the INR reaches at least 2.0
  • Dabigatran: It may increase INR; readings will be unreliable until dabigatran has been stopped for at least 2 days; interpret values with caution. Adjust the starting time of the warfarin based on CrCl as follows:
    • CrCl above 50 mL/min: discontinue dabigatran 3 days after starting warfarin
    • CrCl 30-50 mL/min: discontinue dabigatran 2 days after starting warfarin
  • Edoxaban: Reduce dose from 60mg daily to 30mg (or from 30mg to 15mg if patient was on the reduced dose) once daily when commencing warfarin.
    • Discontinue edoxaban once INR reaches 2 or more; if this is not reached by day 14, stop edoxaban and continue titrating warfarin to achieve an INR between 2 and 3.
    • Do not give a loading dose of warfarin to promptly achieve a stable INR between 2 and 3.
    • Check INR at least 3 times during first 14 days just before edoxaban is given to minimise the effect on INR (edoxaban can increase post-dose INR by up to 46%).
  • Rivaroxaban: Continue rivaroxaban for at least 2 days after starting warfarin. Check INR before next scheduled rivaroxaban dose; continue with rivaroxaban until INR reaches at least 2.0

Prevention of bleeding - patient education

Patients should be aware of the risks and benefits of anticoagulation and should be advised to carry an appropriate anticoagulant alert card. Cards are available for each non-vitamin K oral anticoagulant, and can be obtained from the individual manufacturers:

Advise patients to omit their anticoagulant medication and seek medical advice in the event of haemorrhage or significant acute illness. Ensure patients and carers keep a copy of the patient information leaflet.

Missed doses, and overdose

Missed doses

  • Apixaban, edoxaban or rivaroxaban: Forgotten dose should be taken immediately and then continued as normal with the next scheduled dose. No double doses should be taken.
  • Dabigatran: Forgotten dose may still be taken up to 6 hours prior to the next scheduled dose, after this point the missed dose should be omitted. No double doses should be taken.


  • Oral activated charcoal if within 2 hours of ingestion.
  • Dabigatran can be dialysed
  • An agent to rapidly reverse the anticoagulant effect of dabigatran is available, if required – see "Major bleeding (cerebral or GI)" below

Major bleeding (cerebral or GI)

Determining the time since last dose of therapy is vital as interruption of treatment may be sufficient. The estimated time for restoration of haemostasis after cessation of therapeutic doses with adequate renal function is usually within 12 hours for dabigatran and apixaban, and 24 hours for rivaroxaban and edoxaban.

Initiate resuscitation with compression, IV fluids, blood transfusion and other supportive measures as necessary.

Check FBC, U&E's and a coagulation screen (PT, Thrombin Time and APTT). A normal Thrombin Time can be used to exclude any clinical relevant level of dabigatran. However, a normal PT or APTT cannot be used to rule out a therapeutic concentration of the factor Xa inhibitors rivaroxaban, apixaban or edoxaban.


An agent to rapidly reverse the anticoagulant effect of dabigatran (idarucizumab [Praxbind®] as a single 5g bolus injection) is available.

Dried prothrombin complex (4-factor prothrombin complex concentrate, PCC) may reverse the effect of the factor Xa inhibitors and may be considered (at a dose of 50 IU/kg), but there is very limited clinical experience with its use in patients taking new oral anticoagulants.

MHRA Drug Safety Update (October 2013, September 2016) New oral anticoagulants apixaban, dabigatran and rivaroxaban: risk of serious haemorrhage.

The following contraindications now apply to all DOACs, for all doses and indications:

  • A lesion or condition, if considered a significant risk factor for major bleeding. This may include:
    • current or recent gastrointestinal ulceration
    • presence of malignant neoplasm at high risk of bleeding
    • recent brain or spinal injury
    • recent brain, spinal, or ophthalmic surgery
    • recent intracranial haemorrhage
    • known or suspected oesophageal varices
    • arteriovenous malformation
    • vascular aneurysms, or major intraspinal or intracerebral vascular abnormalities
  • Concomitant treatment with any other anticoagulant agent—e.g unfractionated heparin, low molecular weight heparin (such as enoxaparin or dalteparin), heparin derivatives (such as fondaparinux), or oral anticoagulants (such as warfarin). Exceptions are switching of therapy to or from the medicine, or when unfractionated heparin is given at doses necessary to maintain an open central venous or arterial catheter

Additional advice and information for healthcare professionals:

  • Special care should be taken when deciding to prescribe these anticoagulant medicines to patients with other conditions, procedures, and concomitant treatments (e.g non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antiplatelets), which may increase the risk of major bleeding
  • Attention should be paid to renal function. Impaired renal function may constitute a contraindication or recommendation not to use the anticoagulant medicine, or may require a dose reduction; recommendations differ for the three medicines
  • The contraindications, posology, and warnings and precautions for use specific to each medicine, together with the individual's risk factors for bleeding (e.g renal function), should be considered before prescribing these medicines

Please consult the product information for advice on treatment in the event of bleeding complications, or overdose.

DOACS in pregnancy and breast feeding


Women are advised to avoid pregnancy if taking a DOAC


Apixaban: Not recommended (secreted into breastmilk)

Dabigatran: Discontinue breastfeeding if taking dabigatran (clinical safety not established)

Edoxaban: Contraindicated. (Secreted into breastmilk; women should consider whether to stop breastfeeding or stop treatment)

Rivaroxaban: Contraindicated in breastfeeding (secreted in breastmilk).

Prior to emergency surgery

If possible, wait 12 hours (dabigatran) or 24 hours (rivaroxaban, edoxaban and apixaban) after the last dose.

Clinical indications for warfarin and target INR values

Guidance only, targets and durations should be determined based on individual cases

An INR which is within 0.5 units of the target value is generally satisfactory; larger deviations require dosage adjustment

  • Deep vein thrombosis prophylaxis including surgery in high risk patients
    • Target INR: 2.0-2.5
    • Duration: Until mobile
  • Proximal deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism
    • Target INR: 2.5
    • Duration: 3-6 months
  • Calf vein thrombus (post-operative or post-partum)
    • Target INR: 2.5
    • Duration: 6 weeks
  • Calf vein thrombus
    • Target INR: 2.5
    • Duration: 3 months
  • Recurrent venous thromboembolism when no longer on warfarin therapy
    • Target INR: 2.5
    • Duration: Long term
  • Recurrent venous thromboembolism while on warfarin therapy
    • Target INR: 3.5
    • Duration: Long term
  • Symptomatic inherited thrombophilia
    • Target INR: 2.5
    • Duration: Long term
  • Antiphospholipid syndrome
    • Target INR: 2.5
    • Duration: Long term
  • Non-rheumatic atrial fibrillation
    • Target INR: 2.5
    • Duration: Long term
  • Atrial fibrillation secondary to rheumatic or congenital heart disease, and thyrotoxicosis
    • Target INR: 2.5
    • Duration: Long term / Seek advice
  • Cardioversion
    • Target INR: 2.5-3.0
    • Duration: Seek advice
  • Mural thrombosis
    • Target INR: 2.5
    • Duration: Seek advice
  • Cardiomyopathy
    • Target INR: 2.5
    • Duration: Long term
  • Mechanical prosthetic heart valve: aortic
    • Target INR: 3.0 or 2.5 (the target INR depends on the type of valve- seek specialist advice)
    • Duration: Long term
  • Mechanical prosthetic heart valve: mitral
    • Target INR: 3.0 or 2.5 (the target INR depends on the type of valve- seek specialist advice)
    • Duration: Long term
  • Bioprosthetic valve
    • Target INR: 2.5 if anticoagulated
    • Duration: Long term

Slow induction of warfarin in atrial fibrillation

Patients with low risk atrial fibrillation who do not need rapid anticoagulation can be prescribed 2mg of warfarin per day usually without heparin. INR should be checked after 1 week.

Slow induction is not suitable for patients who:

  • need rapid anticoagulation
  • are unstable or ill
  • are at high risk of bleeding
  • have significant co-morbidity or interacting drugs

The INR at the end of two weeks of 2mg can be used as approximate guide of an individual patient's daily warfarin requirements. Please note the gender differences in the dose per day.

See Chapter 2, section 2.8.2 Oral anticoagulants

Estimate of maintenance dose based on INR at day 14:


INR at day 14

Maintenance dose











greater than 3.0



INR at day 14

Maintenance dose









greater than 3.0


Rapid induction of warfarin

The objective of rapid initiation is to achieve full anticoagulation and reach the target INR as quickly yet safely as possible.

Rapid induction of warfarin should only take place in a hospital setting, see individual trust policies for further details.

Warfarin monitoring and adverse events

Monitoring INR; in early days of treatment it is essential to determine INR daily or on alternate days, then at longer intervals (depending on response), then up to every 12 weeks.

The main adverse effect of all oral anticoagulants is haemorrhage. The following recommendations (which take into account the recommendations of the British Society for Haematology) are based on the result of the INR and whether there is major or minor bleeding; the recommendations apply to patients taking warfarin:

  • Major bleeding: Stop warfarin; give phytomenadione (vitamin K1) 5mg by slow intravenous injection; give dried prothrombin complex (factors II, VII, IX, and X—section 2.11) 25–50 units/kg (if dried prothrombin complex unavailable, fresh frozen plasma 15ml/kg can be given but is less effective); recombinant factor VIIa is not recommended for emergency anticoagulation reversal
  • INR above 8.0 and minor bleeding: stop warfarin; give phytomenadione (vitamin K1) 1–3mg by slow intravenous injection; repeat dose of phytomenadione if INR still too high after 24 hours; restart warfarin when INR below 5.0
  • INR above 8.0 with no bleeding: stop warfarin; give phytomenadione (vitamin K1) 1–5 mg by mouth using the IV preparation (unlicensed use); repeat dose of phytomenadione if INR still too high after 24 hours; restart warfarin when INR below 5.0
  • INR 5.0–8.0 with minor bleeding: stop warfarin; give phytomenadione (vitamin K1) 1–3 mg by slow intravenous injection; restart warfarin when INR less than 5.0
  • INR 5.0–8.0 and no bleeding: withhold 1 or 2 doses of warfarin and reduce subsequent maintenance dose
  • Unexpected bleeding at therapeutic levels: always investigate possibility of underlying cause e.g. unsuspected renal or gastro-intestinal tract pathology


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