Warfarin: a patient's view

Birgitta Paton

Birgitta Paton, 77, has atrial fibrillation and has been taking warfarin for 15 years.

When I was 61 I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF) and was warned this meant I had an increased risk of stroke. Blood clots are more likely to form if you have AF and they can travel in the bloodstream from the heart to the brain and cause a stroke.

As a result I have been taking warfarin every day for 15 years to reduce my risk of stroke and am very pleased to say that I have never had one.

I have to watch out for major bleeding from my stomach or bowel, which is a potential complication of taking warfarin, but luckily I have never suffered anything like that.

However, what’s worrying me is that lots of my friends and people I’ve met tell me that they would never take warfarin as they’ve heard terrible things about it. I’ve heard rumours that it’s been used as rat poison or could cause me to bleed to death. It seems a very unpopular drug.

I’ve heard rumours that it’s been used as rat poison or could cause me to bleed to death

I’ve read in newspapers about newer types of anticoagulant drugs becoming available so I’m looking forward to taking one of those instead one day. Obviously I do not want to have a stroke so I would need to be sure any newer anticoagulant would provide the same level of protection as warfarin.

I want to add that I have no difficult taking warfarin:  the tablets are small and easy to swallow. I see my GP surgery for regular blood tests which occasionally lead to the dose being adjusted.

Depending on my test results, sometimes I need a repeat test as often as every five weeks, sometimes as infrequently as every two months.  But at times I worry about the future because if I could no longer drive the six miles to my GP, how would I have the regular blood tests which are part and parcel of ensuring warfarin is safe?

Read the expert's view on warfarin

Related publications