Hemophilia Drug Fights Most Lethal Form Of Stroke

Positive results from a major international trial suggest a drug used to treat hemophilia may cut deaths and disability from a particularly lethal type of stroke. Patients given the drug, called recombinant activator factor VII (rFVIIa), within four hours of a hemorrhagic stroke had a significantly increased chance of survival and suffered less disabling brain damage than those not given the treatment, according to a report in the Feb. 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. "These results are to be celebrated because, with future studies, we are on the brink of the first targeted therapy for cerebral hemorrhages," said Dr. Lewis B. Morgenstern, director of the stroke program at the University of Michigan Health System and co-author of an accompanying editorial in the journal. Burst blood vessels are responsible for just 10 percent to 15 percent of strokes; the rest are caused by clots that block blood vessels in the brain. However, more than 60 percent of patients who suffer hemorrhagic strokes die within a year, despite the best treatments available now. Many of those deaths occur within the first hours following the stroke. It was the memory of such deaths that prompted this trial, said Dr. Stephan A. Mayer, an associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City. The study was supported by Novo Nordisk, Denmark, which markets factor VII under the trade name NovoSeven.

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