Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Time for more people to know about tPA

Like most people in 1998, I'd never heard of a drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator).

Sadly, too many people still don't know about it.

I recently became aware of a new book, "tPA for Stroke: The Story of a Controversial Drug" that digs into  why it's still largely unknown. The authors - Dr. Justin Zivin, a professor of neurosciences at the University of California San Diego who performed some of the earliest experiments that showed tPA could be used to treat stroke patients, and science writer John Galbraith Simmons - describe in detail the drug's controversial history.

In 1998, it had only been approved for stroke patients for a couple of years (1996) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. TPA acts to clear blood clots lodged in the brain - the main cause of stokes - allowing blood flow to resume to the brain. I am convinced that without the drug, at best, I would currently be disabled or, at worst, would have died that day. But because a willing neurologist happened to be available in a small-town hospital just two years after the drug was approved, I'm alive and well.

Thanks be to God.

Zivin recently talked with the San Diego Union Tribune not long about about the little-used drug that can minimize stroke damage:

Every 40 seconds, it happens to someone, somewhere in the United States. Stroke. It’s the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer, killing the victim in roughly three out of 10 cases while leaving many survivors with permanent brain damage and paralysis.

There is a drug, however, that can, if taken soon enough, minimize the consequences of a stroke, even produce a recovery so remarkable that it’s difficult to believe the patient ever even had a stroke. The drug is called tPA. Most stroke victims never get it.
And that's a shame. People need to know the stroke signs, call 911 and get the stroke victim to a stroke center - fast.

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