A new study has found that the presence or absence of recorded contraindications has little influence on the decision to prescribe anticoagulants for the prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF).

A recent study, published in the British Journal of General Practice and carried out by researchers at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research, found that safety advice regarding bleeding risks were often not considered by GPs.

The researchers reviewed patient records from 645 general practices over a 12-year period between 2004 and 2015. They found that AF patients with conditions making them a safety risk and those without safety risks were almost equally likely to be prescribed anticoagulants. The situation did not change over time.

First author Dr Nicola Adderley, said: “These patients are at high risk of stroke and anticoagulant drugs greatly reduce the stroke risk as they make blood less likely to clot.

“However, because they reduce blood clotting, patients taking anticoagulant drugs are at risk of bleeding complications. Therefore, safety advice is to avoid anticoagulants in patients who have certain conditions such as a bleeding peptic ulcer, diabetic eye disease or a previous stroke caused by a bleed.”