June 23, 2010

Cheap drug saves lives

Patients suffering acute injury with serious bleeding historically don’t do well. But a recent study is showing that if these same patients were to receive a cheap, readily available drug that is easily administered in the pre-hospital setting, potentially tens of thousands of lives could be saved every year.

A Professor of Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Dr Ian Roberts, has published the results of a study showing that early administration of a drug called TXA (tranexamic acid) to these patients does indeed save lives, with no evidence of adverse effects or clotting.

The CRASH-2 trial was a large, randomized study involving more than 20,000 adult patients in 274 hospitals across 40 countries, and is the first pre-hospital trial of TXA. Smaller trials have shown the drug reduces bleeding in patients undergoing major surgery.

For those between five years and 45 years, trauma is second only to HIV/AIDS as the leading cause of death. Dr. Roberts estimates some 600,000 trauma patients die from uncontrolled bleeding annually. In the CRASH-2 study, a one-gram dose of TXA improved survival rates by 15%. By these figures, the number of annual trauma-related deaths could theoretically be reduced by 90,000.

TXA is a readily available, off-patent drug costing $2.50 or less per gram.