Study compares brands of heparin given to ICU patients

An intensive care doctor at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario, is questioning hospitals’ choice of using a newer heparin drug over another, raising concern that the choice is made not based on the quality of the drug but rather better marketing, according to The Hamilton Spectator.

Dr. Deborah Cook, academic chair of critical care medicine at St. Joseph’s, is leading a study to determine whether the newer and more expensive version of the blood thinner is more effective for patients in intensive care than the older one. Fifty-six ICUs in Canada, Australia, Brazil, U.S. and Saudi Arabia will participate in the study. Patients will be chosen at random from each of the participating ICUs.

The study also will look at each drug’s side effects, which can include excessive or unusual bleeding.

Heparin, which is used to prevent blood clotting, is routinely given to most ICU patients. The newer version has been touted as being stronger and thus is used most often. The newer heparin costs about $9 per day per patient compared to $2 per day per patient for the older version.

The study, which is called PROTECT and stands for Profhylaxis of Thromboembolism in Critical Care Trial, is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. No results have yet been posted for the study, which is currently halfway through the 2 ½-year research process.