A potential rival to biotechnology anti-clotting agents is low-molecular weight heparin, which is as effective and possiblysafer than traditional heparin, according to a large clinical trialreported today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Novo Nordisk of Denmark contributed funding for themulticenter trial of its Logiparin, an enzymatic product ofconventional heparin. In a randomized study of patients withclots in leg blood vessels, the low-weight heparin showed a 60percent lower rate of repeat clotting or of clots appearing in thelungs. It was also associated with 90 percent fewer majorbleeding complications compared with heparin.

Moreover, the low-weight version could be given once daily byinjection, whereas heparin was given by continuousintravenous infusion.

Use of low-weight heparin "might allow patients withuncomplicated venous thrombosis to be treated at home,reducing the risk of (hospital-borne) infection ... and providingsubstantial cost savings," the study group said. -- RobertaFriedman, Ph.D.

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