Stroke is one of the common causes of death among the Americans. Nearly 500000 people suffer the first stroke and 200000 suffer from recurrent attack of stroke. Though it has been a major cause of death doctors are prescribing the same drug that was discovered ten years ago. There has not been any new significant study on the treatment of stroke patients.
Thee dug activase was the drug that created a major break through in the treatment of stroke and is still the only drug available. This drug is produced by the biotech firm, Genentech and is available only for a small number of patients.
Mark Alberts of Northwestern University in Chicago says that this drug is used only by 3-4% of the patients. But now after creating a lot awareness among the people the scenario is changing for the better.
Activase (tissue plasminogen activator or tPA) sales are on the rise. Statistics published in the February issue of the journal Neurology found that the dug was used by 17000 patients. The use of Activase doubled in the 11 centers of stroke treatment. Vanja Douglas of the University of California-San Francisco and her colleagues said that in one particular center the use of activase jumped from 1.5% of patients to 10.5%.
The government is also taking all possible measures to increase the use of activase among the stroke patients. It has issued a ruling that U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services pay all the hospitals $11,578, who treat stroke patients with Activase, which is double the amount they were paid previously.
Joseph Broderick, neurologist at the University of Cincinnati said that a lot of other researches are in the pipeline to protect the people from Stroke. Stoke is mainly due to the complete blocking of the blood supply to the brain. This can arise when the clot obstructs the passage of the artery. About 85% of the strokes cases are due to the arterial blocks that supply blood along with nutrients to the brain rest are due to the leakage of the blood from the arteries thereby increasing the internal pressure of the brain. This is very dangerous as it can squeeze the brain inside the skull.
Symptoms such as numbness or weakness on one side, difficulty in speaking or understanding speech, trouble seeing with one or both eyes, difficulty in walking, feeling of dizziness and severe headache with no reason are the warning symptoms of stroke. The American Heart Association, its subsidiary the American Stroke Association, and the National Stroke Association are educating the public about the seriousness and how lives can be saved if they are given proper treatment at the right time.
The main disadvantage of the drug activase is that it is effective only when it is administered immediately within three hours of the stroke. A small number of patients (40 out of 600) are treated at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital with activase due to their late arrival, after the three-hour window closes say Alberts.
In case of a small group, 4-6% of stoke patients suffer from fatal hemorrhage after the treatment with the activase drug. But when the dug is properly administered it brings back normalcy in case of the stroke patient. Research is going on to find new drugs that work beyond the three-hour window period.
The various drugs that are in the pipeline are Desmoteplase, anti clotting substance that is being tested whether it can be used after the three-hour window period. Factor VII a clotting agent exclusively to treat hemorrhagic stroke. Cerovive an anti-inflammatory drug to prevent the killing of the nerve cells after a stroke.
Activase coupled with ultrasound is also very effective at dissolving clots. Magnetic resonance images (MRIs) can also be used to identify those patients who can be brought back to normalcy after the three-hour window period. Also the new Merci Retrieval System, a corkscrew-like device approved by the government that facilitates removal of blood clots from the brain. Ideas of using this machinery after the three-hour window period are also in the pipeline. There are 180 stroke centers, which have won certification as primary stroke centers from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of health care Organizations. These can be interlinked with the ambulance services and the patient can be immediately attended too without any delay.