Argatroban helps prevent or treat blood clots in people who have heparin-induced thrombocytopenia. This medicine works by blocking the actions of a certain protein in the body that causes blood to clot. Although argatroban cannot break down a clot, it can slow down clot formation so the body can break it down naturally. Argatroban is also used in certain people who must undergo angioplasty procedures.
What Is Argatroban Used For?Argatroban is a prescription anticoagulant medication, commonly known as a "blood thinner." It is approved to prevent and treat blood clots in people with heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT). It is used as an alternative to heparin or heparin-like medications, which cannot be used in people with HIT.
Argatroban is also used in people who have HIT, or are at risk for HIT, and must undergo angioplasty procedures (known technically as percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI).
Heparin and heparin-like medications, such as low molecular weight heparins, are quite effective and useful medications, and the mainstay for the prevention and treatment of blood clots. However, they may also cause a serious problem known as heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT).
HIT is a reaction to heparin or heparin-like medications, in which the body develops antibodies to the medication. These antibodies activate blood platelets, increase the risk for blood clots, and decrease the measurable platelet levels in the blood.
There are often no noticeable symptoms of HIT until clotting begins to occur, at which point it can lead to life-threatening complications. Once HIT is diagnosed, an anticoagulant is usually necessary, at least in the short term, to prevent excessive clotting.
However, this poses a dilemma, as many of the traditional anticoagulants are related to heparin and, therefore, should not be used. Some anticoagulants like warfarin (Coumadin®, Jantoven®) are unrelated to heparin, but are too slow-acting for such situations and may even increase the risk for clots. Fortunately, there are a handful of medications, including argatroban, that can be taken safely to treat or prevent clotting in people with HIT.
If you had HIT in the past, you are likely to develop it again in the future if you are exposed to heparin. Therefore, your healthcare provider will probably recommend that you avoid heparin and heparin-like medications. Although the low molecular weight heparins are thought to be less likely to cause HIT, they can still cause the problem -- a risk that is probably not worth taking.