All anticoagulant rodenticides have the same mode of action, i.e. interference with the synthesis of clotting factors, which results in haemorrhaging and death. In the liver cells, the biologically inactive vitamin K1-2,3 epoxide is reduced by a microsomal enzyme into biologically active vitamin K, which is essential for the synthesis of prothrombin and other clotting factors. Anticoagulant rodenticides antagonize the enzyme vitamin K1-epoxide reductase in the liver causing a gradual depletion of the vitamin and consequently of vitamin K-dependent clotting factors. This results in an increase in blood-clotting time until the point where the clotting mechanism fails. The principal use of anticoagulants worldwide has been for control of commensal rodents, primarily Norway rats, ship rats, and house mice. About ten anticoagulant rodenticides have been brought to the market. Some are reviewed here to illustrate their properties. A number have been registered for commensal rodent control.
The first-generation anticoagulants came into use during the early 1950s and revolutionised rodent control with outstanding safety and efficacy. The second-generation anticoagulants were introduced to overcome resistance to the first-generation compounds, which was first observed in the late 1950s.