What Is the Difference Between Coumadin & Heparin?


Coumadin and Heparin are anti-coagulants, meaning they stop blood from clotting. They are used to treat conditions such as embolism and thrombosis. Even though they sound like they would be interchangeable, Coumadin and Heparin have many differences.


Heparin consists of heparin sodium and Coumadin is the brand name for warfarin sodium. Heparin is administered by health-care professionals and Coumadin can be self-administered. Both require a physician’s prescription.


Heparin bonds with anti-thrombin III (a naturally occurring anticoagulant found in the body), resulting in an increase in the body’s natural anti-coagulating activity. Coumadin reduces the liver’s ability to use vitamin K, which reduces the production of proteins that the body needs to form blood clots.


Heparin is available in vials for injection and as IV solution. Coumadin is a tablet that is taken orally. Dosages for both medications are set by a physician, and patients are closely monitored to prevent overdose.


Coumadin can cause birth defects and an increase in the chance for hemorrhage in both the baby and mother, according to coumadin.com. According to the warnings and precautions listed on Rxlist.com, tests have not been conducted to determine the effects of Heparin on pregnant women.


Heparin and Coumadin can cause excessive bleeding, which can be life-threatening.

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