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New video helps patients use blood thinner pills safely and effectively

Research Activities, October 2009

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released Staying Active and Healthy with Blood Thinners, a new 10-minute video in English and Spanish to help educate patients about how to use anticoagulant drugs, commonly called blood thinners, safely.

Nearly 2 million Americans receive prescriptions for blood thinners each year to reduce their risk of forming dangerous blood clots that can lead to serious conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (clots that form in the deep veins of the legs or groin) or pulmonary embolism (clots that travel to the lungs and can be fatal). Patients who have had certain kinds of strokes or who have a type of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation are often prescribed blood thinners, as are patients who have recently had major surgery or are immobile for other reasons.

Research shows that blood thinners can have serious side effects. They can cause uncontrollable bleeding and are among the top causes of adverse drug events in the country. According to data from AHRQ's Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, more than 7,300 Americans a year are treated in U.S. emergency departments for uncontrolled bleeding associated with use of blood thinners and about half have to be hospitalized. An unknown number of patients are treated for less-severe bleeding in urgent care clinics, doctors' offices, or at home.

Designed to complement education that patients receive in their doctor's offices, clinics, pharmacies, or hospitals, the new video helps patients better understand blood thinners and how to manage them effectively. The video introduces a mnemonic called B-E-S-T to help patients remember important parts of a treatment program they can follow to help keep them safe and healthy. B-E-S-T stands for Be careful, Eat right, Stick to a routine, and Test regularly. The video also features:

  • A patient on blood thinners and how he manages his medication regimen safely in everyday settings like work, home, and leisure time.
  • Simplified medical terminology and easy-to-understand language.
  • Animated graphics showing how dangerous blood clots form and their consequences.
  • Menu selections that allow patients to replay and review specific instructional segments.

The video is available as a DVD and can be obtained from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse. A companion bilingual print brochure, Blood Thinner Pills: Your Guide to Using Them Safely/Pastillas que diluyen la sangre: Guía para su uso seguro, is also available free of charge. For details, visit the AHRQ Web site at

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Page last reviewed October 2009
Internet Citation: New video helps patients use blood thinner pills safely and effectively: Research Activities, October 2009. October 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.