Rethinking Healthcare

Drug for heavy periods could save trauma victims

Drug for heavy periods could save trauma victims

Posting in Technology

People suffering from traumatic injuries could be helped by a cheap drug used to stem bleeding during surgery and heavy menstrual periods.

A cheap, generic drug used to stanch bleeding during surgery and heavy menstrual flows could save tens of thousands of bleeding accident victims and reduce combat deaths, a new review shows.

The drug, tranexamic acid (TXA), is an antifibrinolytic, which promotes blood clotting by preventing clots from breaking down.

"We don't want [to break down clots] when we're bleeding to death," says lead author Ian Roberts of London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. "We want all the clotting we can get."

And at about $4.50 per gram, the drug should be listed as ‘essential’ by the World Health Organization, the researchers say.

Acute traumatic injuries are a major cause of death globally. Hemorrhage, or excessive bleeding, is responsible for about a third of trauma deaths in hospitals and can also contribute to deaths from multi-organ failure [Reuters]. Well over half a million injured people bleed to death worldwide every year.

For this review, UK researchers looked at trials that involved over 20,000 people from 40 countries and found that TXA reduced the risk of death due to bleeding by about 10% compared with giving no such treatment.

That’s over 70,000 lives worldwide, the review says.

TXA “could save lives in both civilian and military settings,” Roberts says. “Patients in car crashes, patients who are shot or stabbed. Or it could be a soldier in places like Afghanistan and Iraq,” he adds.

On side effects, CNN reports:

In prescribing information by Pfizer for Cyklokapron, a brand of tranexamic acid used to prevent bleeding in hemophiliacs following tooth extraction, risks in animals (given much higher doses of tranexamic acid than humans typically receive) include retinal abnormalities.

And prescribing information for Lysteda, the drug used to treat heavy menstrual bleeding, describes reports of deep vein thrombosis and visual disturbances.

The review was published in The Cochrane Library this week. It was based primarily on data from a 2010 study called CRASH-2, which was partly funded by Pfizer.

Image: blood spatter by Heo2035 via Flickr

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure