Despite being more durable than bioprosthetic valves, mechanical heart valves are often not chosen because of the requirement for lifelong anticoagulant therapy. It has been hoped that the newer generation of oral anticoagulants might eventually replace warfarin, making anticoagulation more tolerable and better accepted, since these agents don’t require continuous monitoring and have much fewer serious interactions with other drugs and food. So far, however, there has been no convincing demonstration that the the newer agents are as safe and effective as warfarin for this indication.
RE-ALIGN was a phase 2 dose-validation study of dabigatran in patients with mechanical heart valves. Results of the trial were presented at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Amsterdam and published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine. Patients in the trial were randomized to dabigatran or warfarin.
After 252 patients had been randomized, the trial was stopped early due to an increase in thromboembolic and bleeding events in the dabigatran group: