Warfarin has existed for more than seven decades and has been the anticoagulant of choice for many thromboembolic disorders. The recent introduction of direct acting oral anticoagulants (DOACs) has however caused a shift in preference by healthcare professionals all over the world. DOACs have been found to be at least as effective as warfarin in prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation and in treatment of venous thromboembolism. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, the widespread use of DOACs has been hampered mainly by their higher acquisition costs. As the drugs come off patent, their use in sub-Saharan Africa is likely to increase. However, very few trials have been conducted in African settings, and safety concerns will need to be addressed with further study before widespread adoption into clinical practice.
Patients in sub-Saharan Africa generally have poor anticoagulation control. We review the potential reasons for this poor control, as well as the potential solutions. Challenges include the affordability and centralisation of anticoagulation care, problems with access to medicines and INR monitoring, the lack of locally-validated standardized dosing protocols, and low levels of anticoagulation knowledge among health care workers and patients. Increasing numbers of patients will need anticoagulation in the future because of the epidemiological transition in the region. We propose that locally-developed “warfarin care bundles” which address multiple anticoagulation challenges in combination may be the most appropriate solution in this setting currently.