A single dose of a drug already used to treat hemophilia can help limit brain damage caused by the deadliest and most debilitating form of stroke, researchers have found.
Chief author Stephan Mayer said he was “stunned” by the finding involving the drug recombinant activated factor VII, which is sold for hemophilia treatment under the brand name NovoSeven by Denmark’s Novo Nordisk.
The study, financed by Novo Nordisk, also found the drug posed a “small” risk of causing a heart attack or another type of stroke. Its use as a stroke treatment is still regarded as experimental.
“By preventing just 5 milliliters of additional blood -- about 1 teaspoon -- of bleeding in the brain, we were able to increase the chances of patient survival by nearly 40%,” said Mayer, of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Strokes caused when a blood vessel breaks and releases blood into the brain, called acute intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH), are the deadliest.
As many as half of those stricken die within a month, and only 1 in 5 become independent again.
ICH affects 15% of stroke victims in the United States, or about 70,000 people a year. In other parts of the world the incidence of bleeding stroke is even higher -- in Asia, ICH affects 30% of stroke victims.
The study was published in the Feb. 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.