In a small study, 60% of stroke patients who were given the drug, called caffeinol, had no or minimal disability when they were discharged from the hospital.
In contrast, only 26% of stroke survivors given standard therapy with tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, fared that well, says researcher Sheryl Martin-Schild, MD, PhD, a neurovascular fellow of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.
"Caffeinol contains about as much caffeine as five to seven cups of good, strong New Orleans coffee and the equivalent of two shots of alcohol," she tells WebMD.
The research was presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2008.
How Caffeinol Works
The study involved 100 people who had suffered an ischemic stroke. All received intravenous tPA; 10 also were given an infusion of caffeinol.
TPA breaks up the clot, restoring blood flow to the brain. But it's not a cure-all; it only works in about 40% of patients. Plus, it has to be administered in the first three hours after symptoms strike.
Caffeinol allows cells to tolerate reduced blood flow longer, thereby giving tPA a longer opportunity to do its thing, says Jeffrey Saver, MD, vice chairman of the American Heart Association's Stroke Council and a professor of neurology at UCLA.
"It appears to be a promising add-on for patients who get tPA," Saver tells WebMD.
Martin-Schild says that caffeinol was generally well tolerated. Ten percent of patients in both groups had brain bleeds, "which is what you would expect with tPA alone," she says.
"Most patients said they felt nothing, although a few elderly persons said they got a buzz," Martin-Schild adds.
The next step will be a larger and longer study pitting tPA alone against tPA plus caffeinol in patients with ischemic stroke.