New oral anticoagulants, including apixaban, dabigatran, and rivaroxaban, have been developed as alternatives to warfarin, the standard oral anticoagulation therapy for patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials was performed to compare the efficacy and safety of new oral anticoagulants to those of warfarin in patients with AF. The published research was systematically searched for randomized controlled trials of >1 year in duration that compared new oral anticoagulants to warfarin in patients with AF. Random-effects models were used to pool efficacy and safety data across randomized controlled trials. Three studies, including 44,563 patients, were identified. Patients randomized to new oral anticoagulants had a decreased risk for all-cause stroke and systemic embolism (relative risk [RR] 0.78, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.67 to 0.92), ischemic and unidentified stroke (RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.77 to 0.99), hemorrhagic stroke (RR 0.45, 95% CI 0.31 to 0.68), all-cause mortality (RR 0.88, 95% CI 0.82 to 0.95), and vascular mortality (RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.77 to 0.98). Randomization to a new oral anticoagulant was associated with a lower risk for intracranial bleeding (RR 0.49, 95% CI 0.36 to 0.66). Data regarding the risks for major bleeding (RR 0.88, 95% CI 0.71 to 1.09) and gastrointestinal bleeding (RR 1.25, 95% CI 0.91 to 1.72) were inconclusive. In conclusion, the new oral anticoagulants are more efficacious than warfarin for the prevention of stroke and systemic embolism in patients with AF. With a decreased risk for intracranial bleeding, they appear to have a favorable safety profile, making them promising alternatives to warfarin. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.