News-Medical reports that a study by the University of North Carolina (UNC) exposed that the use of the blood thinner Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate) may increase the risk of contracting viral infections, making the patient more vulnerable to illnesses such as influenza (flu) and myocarditis, a viral heart infection responsible for causing sudden death in children and adolescents. The blood thinning medication, used to reduce the risks of blood clots and strokes in patients who suffer from non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF), increases the viral risk by blocking a primary coagulation component, thrombin, in the body’s natural blood clotting system. This blockage can negatively affect the body’s immune response, and researchers have also found that Pradaxa use can also increase the severity of a contracted viral infection.

“Our findings show that blocking thrombin reduces the innate immune response to viral infection,” says Nigel Mackman, Ph.D., a study senior author and a John C. Parker Distinguished Professor of Medicine in the division of hematology. Mackman is also the director of the UNC McAllister Heart Institute. “The use of the new generation of blood thinners might increase the risk and severity of flu and myocarditis,” he adds. A full report on the Pradaxa research is reported in the March 2013 issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

This is not the first on the list of Pradaxa’s negative side effects. The medicine, manufactured by Boehringer Ingelheim, is currently facing a number of ongoing lawsuits from cases where patients suffered from uncontrollable and gastrointestinal internal bleeding. News Inferno reports that there have been over 500 deaths from Pradaxa use. Yet, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) argues that, if used as directed, Pradaxa is safe and the medicine’s reported internal bleeding cases are just as likely to occur with the use of warfarin, a traditional blood thinner that has been prescribed for decades. However, the only problem with the FDA’s claim is that they fail to mention that there is no known antidote to stop a Pradaxa bleed, whereas an antidote can easily stop a bleed in a patient on warfarin.

“Despite the rising number of complications stemming from Pradaxa use, Boehringer Ingelheim refuses to acknowledge the dangers of Pradaxa,” says Ned McWilliams, a personal injury attorney at Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A.

Consequently, with the current lawsuits and the recent viral risk discovery, Pradaxa’s future within the market doesn’t look promising for Boehringer and Ingelheim.

Krysta Loera is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.