A drug that keeps hemophiliacs from bleeding to death could also prove to be the first treatment for the most lethal and crippling type of stroke, the kind caused by a burst blood vessel in the brain.
In a promising international study, stroke victims given the drug were one-third less likely to die and three times more likely to survive without severe disability.
"What was really startling was how well this drug worked," said Dr. Stephan Mayer, a stroke specialist at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York who led the study. "I was fairly amazed."
The drug needs more study, and Dr. Mayer said it will be at least two years before the maker applies for Food and Drug Administration approval for this purpose.
Most of the 700,000 strokes in the United States each year are caused by a clot that cuts off the flow of blood to the brain. Over the past decade, the clot-busting drug TPA has proved extraordinarily effective at treating many of these victims.
The study was conducted at 73 hospitals in 20 countries. Researchers assigned 399 patients to get the drug or fake medication.