Ever since the introduction of low molecular weight heparins (LMWHs) for clinical use, one of the major questions raised relates to product interchangeability and the differences between each of the individual LMWH preparations. Although differences between various commercially available products have been described in terms of molecular weight profile and biologic properties, very limited information on the direct comparison of individual products in a defined clinical setting is available at this time. European Pharmacopeia (EP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have developed guidelines to characterize these agents in terms of molecular weight and biologic profiles. On a gravimetric basis, these potency assignments differ for anti-Xa and anti-IIa activities in terms of U potency per mg. The relative distribution of various molecular weight components has also been reported to vary. The oligosaccharide composition, microstructural differences in terms of specific sugars and the presence of unique structural features and the interaction with endogenous mediators such as Antithrombin (AT) and Heparin Cofactor II (HC II) also differ. At equivalent anti-Xa levels, the amount of the anti-IIa activity and anticoagulant activity differs. Since the bioavailability and relative pharmacokinetics of the anti-Xa and anti-IIa effects are different, the specific pharmacodynamic effects of these drugs also differ. A large preclinical data base is now available on the differences between various LMWHs. However, only limited clinical data is available in the current literature. To date, the LMWHs have been primarily used for the management of post-surgical DVT. Only smaller dosages (30-40 mg or 2,500 to 4,000 anti-Xa U total dose) have been used. In these studies, because of the low dose and subcutaneous route of administration, the differences in clinical effects are rather small. Since LMWHs are now developed for therapeutic use, where relatively higher doses are used, these pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic differences will become more apparent. The reported differences in the clinical efficacy of LMWHs in such indications as unstable angina may be due to their pharmacologic properties and molecular composition. There are also major differences in the non-anticoagulant actions of these agents such as their ability to interact with growth factors and antithrombotic effects. Based on the available literature, it can be concluded that each product exhibits individuality.
Keywords: bioequivalence, low molecular weight heparin differentiation, heparinase-1, oligosaccharides