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Press Release

Pharmacists Can Play Key Role in Treating Patients with Deep Vein Thrombosis

The outpatient use of low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) to treat acute deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in appropriate adult patients is just as safe and effective as traditional inpatient therapy with unfractionated heparin, according to a new therapeutic position statement released by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

“The good news is that DVT can be treated very easily and cost-effectively in an outpatient setting with the use of LMWH,” said Cynthia LaCivita, Pharm.D., director of clinical standards and quality in ASHP’s Practice Standards and Quality Division. “This means that patients can spend less time in the hospital, and costs for care go down dramatically.”

Daniel M. Witt, Pharm.D., manager, Clinical Pharmacy Services, Kaiser Permanente of Colorado, pointed to the growing number of health-system pharmacists who have successfully developed and implemented outpatient DVT treatment programs.

“These programs are invariably win-win because patients get effective therapy in a more comfortable setting and scarce financial resources can be preserved and allocated to other important health-care initiatives,” Witt added.

Often called a “silent killer,” DVT can lead to deadly complications such as pulmonary embolism (PE).  According to the American Heart Association, more than two million Americans are diagnosed with DVT each year, and it has been estimated that PE may cause up to 200,000 deaths annually. Some of the top risk factors for DVT include: 

  • Age
  • Stroke
  • Prolonged immobility
  • Cancer and its treatment
  • Major surgery
  • Prior DVT
  • Varicose veins
  • Obesity

The new “ASHP Therapeutic Position Statement on the Use of Low Molecular Weight Heparin for Adult Outpatient Treatment of Acute Deep Vein Thrombosis” highlights opportunities for health-system pharmacists to dramatically reduce the cost of treating DVT, maintain clinical outcomes, and improve patients’ quality of life. ASHP’s Board of Directors approved the document, produced through the Society’s Commission on Therapeutics, April 16, 2004.

The recommendations contained within the position statement are also supported by a new antithrombotic pharmacotherapy traineeship sponsored by the ASHP Research and Education Foundation. The traineeship’s primary goal is to prepare pharmacists to offer specialized services for managing antithrombotic therapy. 

ASHP is a member of the Coalition to Prevent Deep-Vein Thrombosis, a group comprised of more than 35 representatives from key health care organizations such as the American College of Chest Physicians, the American Public Health Association, and the Society of Hospital Medicine.  The Coalition’s mission is to reduce the immediate and long-term dangers of DVT and PE, which together comprise one of the nation’s leading causes of death. 

For more information on the “ASHP Therapeutic Position Statement on the Use of Low Molecular Weight Heparin for Adult Outpatient Treatment of Acute Deep Vein Thrombosis,” go to and click on “New Guidance Documents.”

ASHP is the 30,000-member national professional association that represents pharmacists who practice in hospitals, health maintenance organizations, ambulatory care clinics, long-term care facilities, home care, and other components of health care systems. ASHP, which has a long history of medication error prevention efforts, believes that the mission of pharmacists is to help people make the best use of medicines.  Assisting pharmacists in fulfilling this mission is ASHP's primary objective.  The Society has extensive publishing and educational programs designed to help members improve their professional practice, and it is the national accrediting organization for pharmacy residency and pharmacy technician training programs.  For more information, visit ASHP’s Web site, or