MRH Coumadin Clinic enhances benefits, decreases risk of powerful drug
Getting just the right amount of this blood thinner is extremely important for proper care and management
If you have heart disease, atrial fibrillation (A-Fib), a mechanical heart valve or a clotting disorder, your doctor has likely talked with you about taking the drug Coumadin, also known as Warfarin. If you are on Coumadin, you’ll be happy to learn that Memorial Regional Health has created a dedicated Coumadin Clinic to help manage the benefits of Coumadin, and avoid the common side effects of this medication.
Coumadin, also called Warfarin, is an anti-clotting medication commonly referred to as a blood thinner. Getting just the right amount is extremely important for proper care and management. Get too much and you might bleed, get too little and it won’t prevent blood clots from forming in your bloodstream, which could lead to stroke or other complications.
Coumadin levels are measured by checking an International Normalized Ratio or INR level, which detects the amount of time it takes for the blood to clot. The INR number indicates if the right dose of Coumadin has been achieved for a patient, which varies in every person. According to recent studies, people who have their medication monitored at an anticoagulation clinic have fewer recurrent blood clots and fewer episodes of major bleeding.
“It’s new for patients to see a pharmacist to manage their Coumadin, but it’s important to take the time to manage Coumadin closely. When it comes to adverse drug events, Coumadin is associated in more than 25% of all hospitalizations, and 1 in 7 emergency visits. People come in nervous but I take the time to put them at ease. It’s important to me that they leave feeling reassured,” said Karen Sweeney, PharmD, clinical pharmacist of the MRH Coumadin Clinic.
The advantage of having the anticoagulation or Coumadin Clinic is that Sweeney is available to meet with the patient several times at the start to get the dosage just right. She spends an hour at the first visit going over diet, lifestyle, other medications, and health conditions because they all have an effect on Coumadin. After 3-5 days, she follows up to monitor the drug. Every patient and dosage is different, so the number of visits and follow up varies depending on how well the patient responds to Coumadin therapy. Once a dose is established, monthly routine checks are recommended.
“Warfarin is a potent drug, and it needs to be well managed. A tall man might need 1 mg while a tiny woman might need 15 mg. That’s why I take the time to really talk with people. I allow plenty of time because I want people to feel relaxed enough so they can express everything to me. When that happens, we get it right,” Sweeney said.
People take Coumadin to prevent harmful blood clots from forming, which can lead to heart attack, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism. Besides heart-related diseases, Coumadin is prescribed for hereditary clotting disorders. For example, some people are prone to clots in their legs which can travel to their lungs.
“Once the dose is stable, it’s a relatively safe drug to use, and studies show that it greatly reduces the risk of stroke,” Sweeney said.
Sandra Kruczek, a Craig resident, and patient of the Coumadin Clinic, couldn’t be more pleased with the care she has received. She was nervous when her provider suggested she start Coumadin, but she feels the extra time Sweeney took to get her dosage right has made all the difference in her feeling better these days.
“I met Karen and I was stunned. What an education! And what an interesting clinic. I was amazed at the time she took to sit with me and discuss how it works,” Kruczek said.
To learn more about the Coumadin Clinic, call 970-826-3050. As a patient who takes Warfarin, your provider may refer you to the Coumadin Clinic or you can request a referral from your healthcare provider. Clinic hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday – Friday at the Memorial Hospital Campus.