Story of warfarin: From rat poison to lifesaving drug
The present article has been published recently in the Indian Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery.

It is more than six decades since warfarin came into clinical use, and it is interesting to note that the drug is still used in various clinical scenarios. Even more fascinating is the story of how a “rat poison” later on became a powerful oral anticoagulant, which saved endless human lives.

Since we are entering an era of newer oral anticoagulants, it is good to look back into the discovery and development of warfarin, a drug that initiated the long journey of oral anticoagulants.

In 1948, Link proposed that coumarin derivative should be used as a rodenticide. Among various modified forms of dicoumarol, compound 42 was found to be more effective and was named as “WARFARIN” — named from Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and the “arin” from coumarin. This poison caused internal hemorrhage within the rats, resulting in their death. Warfarin soon became the best-selling rat poison in America, and similar chemicals are still used in most mouse and rat poisons around the world.

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