In ER, inexpensive drug can slow bleeding, save lives

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As many as 100,000 deaths could be prevented each year with the increased use of an inexpensive drug, according to a new study from researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In the analysis of more than 20,000 seriously injured patients from 40 different countries, researchers found deaths due to excessive blood loss dropped by about 15% among trauma patients given the drug known as tranexamic acid (TXA), compared with those given a placebo, Reuters reports. The findings, published in the journal The Lancet, prompted researchers to encourage widespread use of the drug.

Speaking with Reuters, study author Ian Roberts explained that worldwide, roughly 600,000 people bleed to death each year. He added:

“It’s important to remember that deaths from injuries are increasing around the world and that they usually involve young adults, often the main breadwinner in the family. The impact on the family is devastating.”

Tranexamic acid, which works by reducing clot breakdown in the blood stream, costs only about $4.50 per gram, Reuters points out. Researchers estimate that, based on the successful application of the drug in this large clinical trial, more widespread use around the globe could significantly reduce deaths due to excessive blood loss. They estimate that, each year 13,000 lives could be saved in India and 12,000 in China by increased use of the drug. In the U.S., they estimate that some 2,000 lives could be saved by using TXA.

This trial was the first such inquiry to look specifically at the use of TXA for patients with severe bleeding caused by injury. (The study included patients who had been injured in car crashes, shootings, stabbings and other traumatic incidents, the BBC reports.) The promising results prompted researchers to call on the World Health Organization to characterize TXA as an “essential” drug.