Heart Drug May Help Reopen Arteries After Stroke

Small study says low-dose argatroban used with intravenous rtPA may improve outcomes

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TUESDAY, Aug. 15, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Combining the drug argatroban with intravenous recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rtPA) may help promote faster and more complete opening of the arteries of ischemic stroke patients, a small study suggests.

Ischemic stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked. The medication rtPA, which helps dissolve blood clots to reopen arteries, is used to treat these patients. However, some patients do not respond to rtPA alone.

Argatroban is approved for use in preventing clots in heart attack patients but had not been tested in stroke patients.

This University of Texas-Houston Medical School study included 15 ischemic stroke patients treated with rtPA. Within an hour of rtPA treatment (and an average of 172 minutes after the first stroke symptoms), the patients received a large dose of argatroban, followed by a continuous 48-hour infusion of the drug.

Within two hours, the arteries completely opened in six patients and partially opened in four patients. Blockage recurred in three of those patients. Two of the patients in the study suffered excessive bleeding with symptoms, one had bleeding with no symptoms, and one patient died.

"Low-dose argatroban combined with intravenous rtPA may be safe and may produce faster and more complete recanalization (opening of the arteries) than does rtPA alone," the study authors wrote.

One of the researches received grant support from Texas Biotechnology Corp., which also supplied the argatroban used in the study.

The researchers are currently conducting a second phase of the trial that will include 50 patients.

The study was published in the August issue of the Archives of Neurology.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about stroke.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Aug. 14, 2006

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