A new drug for treating people with an irregular heartbeat has fewer side effects than the standard treatment and is just as good at cutting the risk of stroke, according to new research.
Rivaroxaban, which is easier for people to take, is as effective as warfarin at preventing blood clots and thus lowering the risk of stroke for patients with atrial fibrillation.
The findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine were made by researchers based at the University of Edinburgh and the Duke University in North Carolina.
It has been estimated that about 800,000 Britons have irregular heartbeats. The risk of stroke can be four to six times higher in people suffering from the condition
The study, which involved 14,000 patients, compared the effects of warfarin - the standard drug that prevents clotting in people with irregular heartbeats - with rivaroxaban.
The occurrence of bleeding was similar for both drugs but it was found that the risk of fatal bleeding on the brain was more than halved - from five per 1,000 to two per 1,000 in patients taking rivaroxaban.