Bleeding is the most serious side effect of most blood-thinners, but there is growing concern about the risk of uncontrollable bleeding from new drugs like Eliquis. A growing number of lawsuits accuse drug-makers of downplaying this risk to promote Eliquis as superior to warfarin.


Bleeding occurs when broken blood vessels or organs leak blood inside or outside the body. Normally, red blood cells called platelets stick together using clotting factors (such as Factor Xa, which Eliquis blocks) and create a gelatinous plug. Blood clots are essential to stop bleeding. However, in some cases they form abnormally and cause heart attacks or strokes.

Eliquis and Bleeding

Eliquis (apixaban) is an oral anticoagulant (blood-thinner) that is used to prevent or treat blood clots. It belongs to a new family of drugs that were introduced without reversal agents, which means there is little to stop their blood-thinning effects during an emergency bleeding event. Not even dialysis can reverse Eliquis.

Eliquis Side Effects

  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Internal bleeding
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Kidney bleeding
  • Cerebral hemorrhage
  • Death

Bleeding on Eliquis vs. Warfarin

These new blood-thinners have only been on the market since 2010. For the last 50 years, the only alternative was warfarin, a blood-thinner that can be reversed with a dose of Vitamin K.

Advertisements for Eliquis claim it is superior to warfarin because it has “less major bleeding,” but do not explain what happens to patients who do start bleeding.

In an emergency, such as after a car accident or before an unexpected surgery, it is essential that any blood-thinning medication in a patient’s bloodstream is deactivated so blood clots can plug broken blood vessels. The longer a patient bleeds uncontrollably, the higher the risk of complications like brain damage or death.

Researchers Warn: “No Antidote” for Eliquis Bleeding

In June 2013, Prescrire International published a study in which researchers warned: “There is no antidote for [Eliquis], nor any specific treatment with proven efficacy for severe bleeding.” According to the study:

“In early 2013, difficulties in the management of bleeding and of situations in which there is a risk of bleeding weigh heavily in the balance of potential harm versus potential benefit of [Eliquis]. When an oral anticoagulant is required, it is best to choose warfarin.”

When to Seek Medical Attention

Severe bleeding is a medical emergency, and even minor bleeds can become life-threatening for people on blood-thinning drugs like Eliquis. You should seek medical attention for uncontrollable bleeding, especially after a bad fall or a head injury.

Symptoms of Bleeding

  • Blood coming from an open wound
  • Bruising
  • Shock
  • Headache or confusion after a fall
  • Clammy skin or paleness (pallor)
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse and increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Stomach pain and swelling
  • Chest pain
  • Stool is red, black, or tarry
  • Urine is red, pink, or tea-colored
  • Vomit is red, brown or looks like coffee grounds
  • Vaginal bleeding is heavier than normal

Thousands of Lawsuits Filed by People Injured by Blood-Thinners

In a race to replace warfarin and dominate the $20 billion market for stroke-prevention, pharmaceutical companies may have rushed new blood-thinners to market without adequately warning about their unique risks. In May 2014, over 4,000 lawsuits involving the blood-thinner Pradaxa settled for $650 million (about $150,000 per case). Another 3,000 lawsuits involving Xarelto have been filed as of January 2016.

What Happens During Severe Bleeding?

Hypovolemic shock is an emergency situation that occurs when blood loss makes it hard for the heart to pump enough blood to the body. This cuts off circulation to vital organs and causes them to stop working.

Symptoms of Shock

The symptoms depend on how much blood is being lost and where it is coming from. Patients in shock will often have low blood pressure, low body temperature, shallow breathing, a rapid but weak pulse, loss of consciousness, and more.

Treatment for Shock

Call 911 immediately for anyone experiencing shock. While you are waiting for responders to arrive:

  • Keep the person comfortable and warm
  • Have the person lay down flat with their feet lifted 12 inches off the ground (unless they have a head, neck, back, or leg injury)
  • Do not give fluids by mouth
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