Hospitals slow to adopt life-saving drug

March 21, 2012 at 7:47 PM
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LONDON, March 21 (UPI) -- Hospitals worldwide have been slow to embrace use of a cheap generic drug that has been saving injured U.S. soldiers on the battlefield, researchers said.

The drug, tranexamic acid, had been sold over-the-counter in Britain and Japan for heavy menstrual flow. However, a 2010 trial on 20,000 hemorrhaging trauma patients in 40 countries showed it saved lives and the U.S. and British Armies added to its medical arsenal.

The World Health Organization added it to its essential drugs list last year and British ambulances carry the drug but adoption of its use in the United States has been slow.

Dr. Ian Roberts, clinical trials director for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and leader of the 2010 trial -- called Crash-2 -- the slowness of U.S. hospitals was due to "inertia."

"The people who do the urging and the talking about new drugs are the pharmaceutical companies, and if they're not interested, it's not done," Roberts told The New York Times.

A study published this month in the journal BMC Emergency Medicine said about 6 million people die worldwide each year of trauma. The study estimated tranexamic acid could save as many as 128,000 of lives a year, 4,000 of them in the United States.

Dr. David E. Lounsbury -- a retired colonel who served as U.S. Army medical liaison officer to the British Army, and co-authored the 2008 Army textbook, "War Surgery in Afghanistan and Iraq: A Series of Cases, 2003-2007" -- said U.S. Army doctors in the mid-2000s used recombinant factor VIIa, a very expensive new clotting drug.

Its use faded after some wounded personnel developed life-threatening clots on evacuation flights out of a war zone, but tranexamic acid was never in his combat hospital's pharmacy, Lounsbury said.

"An old generic doesn't have any hair-on-your-chest bravado, so we didn't even take it to the battlefield," Lounsbury told the Times.

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