Importance  Many patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF) are at a high risk of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding due to conditions including older age; stage III to V chronic kidney disease (CKD); HAS-BLED (hypertension, kidney or liver disease, stroke history, prior bleeding, unstable international normalized ratio, age >65, drug or alcohol use) score of 3 or greater; corticosteroid, antiplatelet or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use; or GI conditions.

Objective  To compare the risk of stroke and/or systemic embolism (SE) and major bleeding (MB) among patients with NVAF and high risk of GI bleeding who received non–vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) vs those who received warfarin.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This retrospective cohort study included patients with NVAF who were 75 years and older; had stage III to V CKD; had an HAS-BLED score of 3 or greater; used corticosteroids, antiplatelets, or NSAIDs; or had GI conditions. Data were collected from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and 4 commercial insurance databases between January 1, 2012, and September 30, 2015. Data analysis was conducted from April to August 2020.

Exposures  New prescription for apixaban, dabigatran, rivaroxaban, or warfarin between January 1, 2013, and September 30, 2015 (identification period).

Main Outcomes and Measures  Six propensity score–matched cohorts were created to compare between study drugs. For the primary objective, Cox models were used to estimate stroke and/or SE and MB hazard ratios (HRs).

Results  A total of 381 054 patients (187 489 [49.2%] women) with NVAF and at least 1 high-risk GI bleeding factor were identified (HAS-BLED score ≥3: 284 527 [74.7%]; aged ≥75 years: 252 835 [66.4%]; corticosteroid, antiplatelet, or NSAID therapy: 107 675 [28.3%]; prior GI bleeding conditions: 74 818 [19.6%]; and stage III-V CKD: 56 892 [14.9%]). All NOACs were associated with a lower risk of stroke and/or SE vs warfarin (apixaban: HR, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.52-0.68; dabigatran: HR, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.64-0.88; rivaroxaban: HR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.73-0.86). Compared with warfarin, apixaban and dabigatran were associated with a lower risk of MB (apixaban: HR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.56-0.63; dabigatran: HR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.70-0.86), while rivaroxaban was associated with a higher risk (HR, 1.11; 95% CI, 1.05-1.16).

Conclusions and Relevance  In this study of patients with NVAF and high risk of GI bleed, NOACs were associated with lower rates of stroke and/or SE, but NOACs had varying risks of MB compared with warfarin. These results may help inform treatment options in this patient population.

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