Background: In the USA, there is a steady rise of atrial fibrillation due to the aging population with increased morbidity. This study evaluated the risk of stroke/systemic embolism (S/SE) and major bleeding (MB) among elderly patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF) and multimorbidity prescribed direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs).

Methods: Using the CMS Medicare database, a retrospective observational study of adult patients with NVAF and multimorbidity who initiated apixaban, dabigatran, or rivaroxaban from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2017 was conducted. High multimorbidity was classified as having ≥ 6 comorbidities. Cox proportional hazard models were used to evaluate the hazard ratios of S/SE and MB among three 1:1 propensity score matched DOAC cohorts. All-cause healthcare costs were estimated using generalized linear models..

Results: Overall 36% of the NVAF study population had high multimorbidity, forming three propensity score matched (PSM) cohorts: 12,511 apixaban-dabigatran, 60,287 apixaban-rivaroxaban, and 12,567 dabigatran-rivaroxaban patients. Apixaban was associated with a lower risk of stroke/SE and MB when compared with dabigatran and rivaroxaban. Dabigatran had a lower risk of stroke/SE and a similar risk of MB when compared with rivaroxaban. Compared to rivaroxaban, apixaban patients incurred lower all-cause healthcare costs, and dabigatran patients incurred similar all-cause healthcare costs. Compared to dabigatran, apixaban patients incurred similar all-cause healthcare costs.

Conclusions: Patients with NVAF and ≥ 6 comorbid conditions had significantly different risks for stroke/SE and MB when comparing DOACs to DOACs, and different healthcare expenses. This study’s results may be useful for evaluating the risk-benefit ratio of DOAC use in patients with NVAF and multimorbidity.


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