Heparin and Lovenox® are two anticoagulant drugs commonly used to assist in preventing blood clots from forming, or to slow down how quickly they form. They are also often used to dissolve existing clots and restore normal blood flow. The essential difference between the two is that they have different molecular weights, which causes them to behave differently in use.
Heparin is a naturally occurring substance that is found in human liver and lung tissue. It assists in the continued smooth flow of blood through those organs. The heparin that is used for medical treatment is not derived from human tissue, but is instead made from either the intestines of pigs or from the lung tissue of cattle. In use, these forms of derived heparin are indistinguishable from human heparin. When injected, heparin works to dissolve or prevent clots for several hours.
Lovenox® is derived from heparin. The difference is that it has been altered in such a way that is has a lower molecular weight than heparin. This change in structure allows Lovenox® to last much longer than heparin, as much as 24 hours, making it much more effective in some situations.
Despite the fact that heparin and Lovenox® serve essentially the same purpose, they are used in different situations. Heparin is indicated any time a patient is at risk for forming a blood clot having to do with any use of intravenous (IV) drugs, dialysis or chemotherapy and it can be given long-term, over a period of months or even years. Lovenox®, on the other hand, is the drug of choice when there is concern about clotting problems related to surgery, and is not to be administered longer than 17 days. It is also used as a treatment for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolisms. If a patient is moving from injections to oral anticoagulants, Lovenox® is used as part of the transition.
When heparin and Lovenox® are administered, heparin can be given either intravenously or subcutaneously — under the skin. Lovenox® is only injected subcutaneously. Frequent monitoring of blood clotting ability is required when the patient is using heparin, but with Lovenox® the monitoring can be much less frequent. How often the patient is monitored depends on the patient’s condition and the dosage of either heparin or Lovenox® being administered. Whichever drug is chosen, both heparin and Lovenox® can be life saving when used properly.
Lovenox vs Heparin During Pregnancy
Lovenox may be prescribed for blood clots during pregnancy. While there is not much extensive research into how safe it is during pregnancy, some experts say that for the most part, there does not seem to be any adverse effects on the fetus. However, there are risks that a pregnant person taking Lovenox should watch out for. These include vaginal bleeding, excessive bleeding or bruising, and placental abruption. Additionally, if the pregnant person has prosthetic heart valves, taking Lovenox could result in valve thrombosis.
Some medical experts consider heparin to be the safest anticoagulant for pregnant people to take. This is because it does not cross the placenta. The pregnant person may still experience some side effects, including an increased chance of bleeding, bruising at the injection site, and a wound hematoma if having a C-section.
Cost of Heparin vs Lovenox
The cost of heparin varies depending on where you live, whether you have insurance, and how much you need to take. The average retail price is around $300 for 60 vials of 1ml each. However, you may pay less if you have insurance, use a generic alternative, or use a medication discount program.
Like heparin, the cost of Lovenox varies depending on where you live, your insurance coverage, and your dosage. People who need 12 syringes of 0.4ml each can expect to pay an average retail price of $665, although medical discount programs and using a generic alternative may lessen the cost.
Heparin vs Lovenox Kidney
Heparin can have a negative effect on the kidneys. People who have a history of kidney disease may have an increased risk of bleeding when taking heparin and should talk to their doctor before using it.
Lovenox can also have negative effects on the kidneys. Like heparin, Lovenox can cause increased bleeding in people who have a history of kidney disease. Patients should talk to their doctors before starting Lovenox. Most doctors prefer to prescribe heparin for people who have kidney impairments.
Side Effects of Heparin vs. Lovenox
The most common side effects of using heparin include easy bruising, irritation at the injection site, prolonged bleeding, minor allergic reactions, and increased liver enzymes. Effects may last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. More serious side effects of taking may include severe bleeding, dark urine, tarry stool, severe bleeding, headache, dizziness, and weakness. If you experience any serious side effects or have a severe allergic reaction, contact your doctor or go to an emergency room right away.
Patients who take Lovenox should also expect side effects. The most common ones include nausea, fever, and diarrhea. Some patients may also experience swelling in the hands and feet or reactions at the injection site. These side effects are typically minor and will cease within a few days. Patients who experience an allergic reaction or severe side effects, such as severe bleeding, severe anemia, or high potassium, should contact their doctor or go to an emergency room to seek treatment as soon as possible.