Non–vitamin K antagonist anticoagulants (NOACs) have been used to prevent thromboembolism in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) and shown favorable clinical outcomes compared with warfarin. However, off-label use of NOACs is frequent in practice, and its clinical results are inconsistent. Furthermore, the quality of anticoagulation available with warfarin is often suboptimal and even inaccurate in real-world data. We have therefore compared the effectiveness and safety of off-label use of NOACs with those of warfarin whose anticoagulant intensity was accurately estimated. We retrospectively analyzed data from 2,659 and 3,733 AF patients at a tertiary referral center who were prescribed warfarin and NOACs, respectively, between 2013 and 2018. NOACs were used at off-label doses in 27% of the NOAC patients. After adjusting for significant covariates, underdosed NOAC (off-label use of the reduced dose) was associated with a 2.5-times increased risk of thromboembolism compared with warfarin, and overdosed NOAC (off-label use of the standard dose) showed no significant difference in either thromboembolism or major bleeding compared with warfarin. Well-controlled warfarin (TTR ≥ 60%) reduced both thromboembolism and bleeding events. In conclusion, the effectiveness of NOACs was decreased by off-label use of the reduced dose.
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