Objective To compare the efficacy, safety, and cost effectiveness of direct acting oral anticoagulants (DOACs) for patients with atrial fibrillation.Design Systematic review, network meta-analysis, and cost effectiveness analysis. Data sources Medline, PreMedline, Embase, and The Cochrane Library.Eligibility criteria for selecting studies Published randomised trials evaluating the use of a DOAC, vitamin K antagonist, or antiplatelet drug for prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation.Results 23 randomised trials involving 94 656 patients were analysed: 13 compared a DOAC with warfarin dosed to achieve a target INR of 2.0-3.0. Apixaban 5 mg twice daily (odds ratio 0.79, 95% confidence interval 0.66 to 0.94), dabigatran 150 mg twice daily (0.65, 0.52 to 0.81), edoxaban 60 mg once daily (0.86, 0.74 to 1.01), and rivaroxaban 20 mg once daily (0.88, 0.74 to 1.03) reduced the risk of stroke or systemic embolism compared with warfarin. The risk of stroke or systemic embolism was higher with edoxaban 60 mg once daily (1.33, 1.02 to 1.75) and rivaroxaban 20 mg once daily (1.35, 1.03 to 1.78) than with dabigatran 150 mg twice daily. The risk of all-cause mortality was lower with all DOACs than with warfarin. Apixaban 5 mg twice daily (0.71, 0.61 to 0.81), dabigatran 110 mg twice daily (0.80, 0.69 to 0.93), edoxaban 30 mg once daily (0.46, 0.40 to 0.54), and edoxaban 60 mg once daily (0.78, 0.69 to 0.90) reduced the risk of major bleeding compared with warfarin. The risk of major bleeding was higher with dabigatran 150 mg twice daily than apixaban 5 mg twice daily (1.33, 1.09 to 1.62), rivaroxaban 20 mg twice daily than apixaban 5 mg twice daily (1.45, 1.19 to 1.78), and rivaroxaban 20 mg twice daily than edoxaban 60 mg once daily (1.31, 1.07 to 1.59). The risk of intracranial bleeding was substantially lower for most DOACs compared with warfarin, whereas the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding was higher with some DOACs than warfarin. Apixaban 5 mg twice daily was ranked the highest for most outcomes, and was cost effective compared with warfarin.Conclusions The network meta-analysis informs the choice of DOACs for prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation. Several DOACs are of net benefit compared with warfarin.
A trial directly comparing DOACs would overcome the need for indirect comparisons to be made through network meta-analysis.Systematic review registration PROSPERO CRD 42013005324.