One of the world's most widely used drugs can cause skin lesions, and may even lead to a life-threatening reduction in blood platelets, researchers have discovered.
Heparin is an anti-coagulant, and is used to prevent an increase in abnormal blood clots in conditions such as DVT (deep vein thrombosis), pulmonary embolism, (blood clots in the lungs), and angina.
But researchers have found that it also causes far more cases of skin lesions than manufacturers had estimated. Although the 'official' rate for heparin-induced skin lesions is just 2 per cent, researchers have discovered the true rate is closer to 8 per cent. The lesions are also an indicator of a life-threatening decrease in the number of blood platelets, although most of the cases did not advance beyond an allergic skin reaction.
(Source: Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2009; 181: 484-6).