Evidence from clinical trials suggests a differential effect of sex on the effectiveness and safety of direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) for stroke prophylaxis in atrial fibrillation (AF).
This population-based cohort study examined the independent effect of sex on hemorrhage and ischemic stroke in 23,884 patients (55% females; age ≥ 66 years) with AF starting apixaban or rivaroxaban treatment in Ontario, Canada. Patients were followed for 90 days after their DOAC prescription. Using female sex as the exposure of interest, differences in baseline characteristics were balanced between sexes using inverse probability weights based on propensity scores. Applying weighted modified Poisson regression, risk ratios (RRs) were estimated for major hemorrhage, ischemic stroke/systemic embolism/transient ischemic attack (hereafter stroke), myocardial infarction, and all-cause mortality, with males as a reference.
Females were older, had higher predicted stroke risk (based on CHADS score), and had fewer comorbidities than did males. Males had a higher prevalence of coronary artery disease, diabetes, and cancer, and similar predicted bleeding risk (based on HAS-BLED score). After weighting, baseline characteristics were well balanced. The 90-day risks for hemorrhage (RR 0.96; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.80-1.15;  = 0.69) and stroke (RR 1.01; 95% CI 0.86-1.19;  = 0.94) were similar between sexes, which remained true when assessing each DOAC separately by dosing regimen. Compared to males, females had a lower risk for myocardial infarction (RR 0.66; 95% CI 0.52-0.84;  = 0.0008), and for all-cause mortality (RR 0.76; 95% CI 0.67-0.87; < 0.0001).
Our findings do not suggest an association of sex with the 90-day risk of hemorrhage or ischemic stroke in older AF patients prescribed apixaban or rivaroxaban.

© 2021 The Authors.