Despite the discovery and application of many parenteral (unfractionated and low-molecular-weight heparins) and oral anticoagulant vitamin K antagonist (VKA) drugs, the prevention and treatment of venous and arterial thrombotic phenomena remain major medical challenges. Furthermore, VKAs are the only oral anticoagulants used during the past 60 years. The main objective of this study is to present recent data on non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) and to analyze their advantages and disadvantages compared with those of VKAs based on a large number of recent studies. NOACs are novel direct-acting medications that are selective for one specific coagulation factor, either thrombin (IIa) or activated factor X (Xa). Several NOACs, such as dabigatran (a direct inhibitor of FIIa) and rivaroxaban, apixaban and edoxaban (direct inhibitors of factor Xa), have been used for at least 5 years but possibly 10 years. Unlike traditional VKAs, which prevent the coagulation process by suppressing the synthesis of vitamin K-dependent factors, NOACs directly inhibit key proteases (factors IIa and Xa). The important indications of these drugs are the prevention and treatment of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms, and the prevention of atherothrombotic events in the heart and brain of patients with acute coronary syndrome and atrial fibrillation. They are not fixed, and dose-various strengths are available. Most studies have reported that more advantages than disadvantages for NOACs when compared with VKAs, with the most important advantages of NOACs including safety issues (ie, a lower incidence of major bleeding), convenience of use, minor drug and food interactions, a wide therapeutic window, and no need for laboratory monitoring. Nonetheless, there are some conditions for which VKAs remain the drug of choice. Based on the available data, we can conclude that NOACs have greater advantages and fewer disadvantages compared with VKAs. New studies are required to further assess the efficacy of NOACs.