Patient Perspectives of Dabigatran: Analysis of Online Discussion Forums
In 2010 the US FDA approved dabigatran, the first new anticoagulant for stroke prevention in non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF) since 1954. To date there is little data that reflects the experiences and perceptions of real-world patients with dabigatran. The abundance of Internet-based discussion forums and support groups related to AF or anticoagulation may provide a low-cost resource for assessing patient experiences.
The aim of this study was to determine patient experiences and perceptions regarding dabigatran through qualitative thematic content analysis of comments posted on publicly accessible virtual discussion forums and Internet support groups.
Comments posted between January 2011 and September 2012 were downloaded from websites focusing on support of patients with AF or on anticoagulation therapy. Comments were analyzed for thematic content.
Five broad thematic categories emerged from the posted comments: general concerns about safety and efficacy, questions about indications and contraindications, questions about proper use and storage, questions about diet and drug restrictions, and experiences with perceived side effects. Our data revealed that a primary concern for patients taking dabigatran is the lack of antidote to reverse the effects of dabigatran if bleeding occurs. Several questions pertaining to the use of dabigatran with other medications or medical conditions were noted, and multiple patients expressed confusion about instructions for using dabigatran before and after medical procedures. An unexpected finding included several criticisms of the medication packaging, which many patients found inconvenient or difficult to open. Finally, several perceived side effects were noted, including some not reported in clinical trials.
Online communities may provide information about topics that are a concern to patients and that may not be discernible in clinical trials, such as medication side effects, proper use, and safety. Our data also highlighted potential topics that may not be a priority to researchers but are nevertheless important to patients (e.g. medication convenience or packaging). Despite the growing use of online health-related communities, very little research makes use of this low-cost resource for identifying patient interests regarding therapeutic treatments to guide patient-oriented research.
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