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'Coffee Cocktail' Limits Stroke Damage

Experimental Stroke Treatment May Protect Brain

WebMD Health News

April 10, 2003 -- An experimental stroke treatment that combines the potency of two cups of strong coffee and a mixed drink may help prevent brain damage when delivered soon after a stroke. A new pilot study shows the "coffee cocktail" is safe in humans, paving the way for future clinical trials to test its effectiveness vs. other currently available stroke treatments.

Previous studies in animals have shown that the combination of caffeine and ethanol, called caffeinol, reduced brain damage from stroke by up to 80% in rats when given within three hours of a stroke.

Those animal studies "demonstrated that the combination of caffeine and ethanol may reduce the amount of damage after stroke. Neither caffeine nor alcohol offered much protection alone, but the combination was protective," says researcher James C. Grotta, MD, professor of neurology and director of the stroke program at the University of Texas-Houston Medical School, in a news release.

In this study, published in the April 10 online edition of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, Grotta and colleagues tested the safety of caffeinol in 23 stroke patients.

The goal of the study was to see if researchers could safely attain the same blood level concentrations of the drug that was shown to be beneficial in the animal studies.

The first set of four patients was given a low dose of the experimental stroke treatment through an intravenous infusion, but that dose did not achieve the desired blood level, so the dosage was increased for the 19 remaining patients. That higher dose produced the target blood level of the drug in the patients without significant side effects.

Researchers say one advantage of caffeinol is that it can be safely given to patients in addition to clot-busting stroke treatments. Eight of the patients in the study received both stroke treatments. One patient in the study died after developing bleeding in the brain, but an independent safety officer determined that the incident was not related to caffeinol.

The study was designed only to see if caffeinol was safe and not to test its effectiveness in stroke patients. But researchers say they found significant nerve function improvement among 57% of the people who received the drug.

The next step, according to researchers, is to determine how well caffeinol protects the brain by comparing the experimental stroke treatment to placebo.

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