Thursday, September 22, 2016

Adding choices for possible stroke treatments

Last post, I included a link to my own story about the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator, better known as tPA.

Keep in mind, though, that my story is 18 years old. And still, tPA is the only approved drug to treat clot-caused strokes. I ran across an interesting story about the reason why the drug doesn't work every time, and what seems to be coming next:
Twenty years ago stroke doctors celebrated the arrival of a powerful new weapon: the clot-clearing drug tPA. It was hailed as a lifesaver and has proved to be one for hundreds of thousands of patients since. TPA was the first and is still the only medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating strokes caused by clots that block blood flow to the brain. But like so many medical marvels, tPA (which stands for tissue plasminogen activator) has turned out to have serious limitations. It needs to be administered within three hours of symptom onset, does not last long in the body before it loses effectiveness, can cause uncontrolled bleeding and often fails to break up large clots.
For many of the nearly 800,000 Americans who every year suffer ischemic strokes, as the brain blockages are called, these shortcomings can be deadly. Nearly 130,000 die. Sadly, there have been no good alternatives to tPA since it debuted.
Recently doctors and scientists have broken this long-standing clinical stalemate with new tools to put a dent in those grim numbers. One innovation, a tiny wire device called a stent retriever, can be snaked up into the blood vessels leading to the brain to pull out large clots. “It's the first proven, effective treatment for acute stroke in a generation,” says Jeffrey Saver, director of the Stroke Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.
To this day, I'm grateful that I and a doctor were at the right place at the right time and tPA brought me around. Still, virtually every treatment has its shortcomings, so it'd be great to have more choices to save more lives.

(Image from Covidien)

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