Could Experimental Drug Stop Strokes?

Treatment may be on horizon for African Americans

Administering a clot-dissolving experimental drug known as TPA (tissue plasminogen activator) directly into the brain may help to stop a stroke in progress, according to Phillip A. Scott, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at the University of Michigan.

Doctors can administer TPA in one of two ways: intravenously or via a catheter placed in a major artery, which dissolves the clot in the affected area.

“We only have a short period of time to administer the drug from the onset of the stroke and much of that time may be lost in getting the patient to the hospital,” says Scott. Treatment would be available in hospitals in major metropolitan cities, making it accessible to 52% of African Americans.

Still, Scott cautions that further testing is needed, and the timing of the treatment will be a major challenge. The benefits, however, would be significant to African Americans, who have a higher incidence of stroke than the general population.

African Americans develop strokes at a younger age, suffer more severely, and have a death rate almost twice as high as whites. Cheryl R. Martin, M.D., of the Milwaukee Heart Institute in Wisconsin, says African Americans can battle strokes with preventative care, which includes eating a diet low in cholesterol, maintaining a moderate weight and exercising regularly. She also strongly recommends that African Americans monitor their blood pressure and follow up aggressively with treatment. “Ask your doctor about new and improved drugs on the market that don’t have the side effects of less-modern drugs,” says Martin.

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