Drug Trio May Cut Stroke Severity
Too Soon to Recommend the Drug Mix, Researchers Caution
WebMD News Archive
April 24, 2006 -- Strokes caused by blood clots may be less severe in
patients taking three particular types of drugs.
Those drug types -- antiplatelets, statins, and ACE inhibitors -- are
already used to help prevent stroke in at-risk
patients. Now, a new study shows that strokes tend to be less severe in
patients taking all three drug types.
Doctors from Harvard Medical School and Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess
Hospital worked on the study, which appears in Neurology.
"Our findings, although intriguing, are preliminary," write Sandeep
Kumar, MD, and colleagues. However, they note that further studies are needed
before recommending the drug trio for all patients at risk for stroke.
Stroke is the No. 3 cause of death and a major cause of disability among
U.S. adults. Every year, about 700,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke. That's
one stroke every 45 seconds, on average, according to the American Stroke
The most common type of stroke is ischemic stroke, in which blood flow to
the brain is blocked. Those blockages may be due to a stationary clot that
forms in a blood vessel or by a clot that travels through the bloodstream and
becomes lodged in a blood vessel.
Kumar and colleagues studied 210 patients treated at the same hospital for
ischemic stroke. All of the patients had arrived at the hospital within 24
hours of the start of stroke symptoms.
Prompt treatment for stroke is a must, since some clot-busting stroke drugs
must be given within a few hours of the start of stroke symptoms.
Here is an overview of the three types of drugs noted in the study:
- Antiplatelets prevent the formation of blood clots. Aspirin is the most
common antiplatelet drug.
- Statins lower LDL "bad" cholesterol. They also have other effects,
such as clot blocking.
- ACE inhibitors widen (dilate) blood vessels and increase blood flow.
Before their stroke, 110 patients (52%) were taking an antiplatelet. That
group included 47 patients who were only taking an antiplatelet, 29 taking an
ACE inhibitor and an antiplatelet, 14 taking an antiplatelet and a statin, and
20 taking all three types of drugs.
Aspirin was the most common type of antiplatelet taken by the patients.
Roughly all groups were examined at the hospital within six hours of the start
of stroke symptoms, the study shows.
Less Severe Strokes
The study was done in hindsight. The researchers checked the patients'
medical records to gauge stroke severity upon
reaching the hospital.
Stroke severity on admission was significantly lower in patients taking all
three types of drugs than in patients taking none of those drugs, antiplatelets
alone, antiplatelets and statins, or antiplatelets and ACE inhibitors.
Average hospital stays were shorter with triple therapy (six days) than for
patients only taking antiplatelets (seven days) or none of the drugs (nine
days). The volume of brain tissue at risk after stroke was smaller in patients
on triple therapy, the study also shows.
The degree of stroke recovery in hospital was similar among the groups. The
key difference was the initial stroke severity, the researchers note.