More than 2 million new U.S. patients will be eligible to receive a next-generation blood thinner drug called Xarelto, after the Food and Drug Administration approved the medication to treat a common heart problem that can lead to stroke.

Federal health officials approved the drug from Johnson & Johnson and Bayer to prevent strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes the heart's upper chambers beat chaotically and ineffectively. The irregular heartbeats can cause blood clots which travel to the brain, blocking blood flow and occasionally causing a stroke.

"This approval gives doctors and patients another treatment option for a condition that must be managed carefully," said Dr. Norman Stockbridge, director of FDA's cardiovascular and renal products division.

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