LONDON (Reuters) - A cheap generic drug used to stem bleeding from heavy menstrual periods could save the lives of tens of thousands of accident victims each year and help reduce the number of deaths in combat, scientists said Wednesday.
In a systematic review of studies on the effectiveness of tranexamic acid, or TXA, British researchers found that it reduces the risk of death in injured patients with severe bleeding by about 10 percent compared to giving no treatment.
This would equate to saving more than 70,000 lives a year if the blood clotting drug was used worldwide, they said in their study published in The Cochrane Library journal.
More than 90 percent of trauma deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries, where access to medicines is often restricted by poorer infrastructure and fewer resources.
“TXA reduces the risk of a patient bleeding to death following an injury and appears to have few side effects,” lead researcher Ian Roberts, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said in a statement. “It could save lives in both civilian and military settings.”
The findings were based on one large trial involving 20,211 patients and one small trial involving 240 patients.
Injuries are a major cause of death across the world. Every year, more than a million people die from road injuries, making traffic accidents the ninth leading cause of death worldwide.
On top of that, stabbings, shootings, land mines and other injuries kill thousands more, many of them young men.
Haemorrhage, or excessive bleeding, is responsible for about a third of trauma deaths in hospitals and can also contribute to deaths from multi-organ failure. Experts estimate that about 600,000 injured patients bleed to death worldwide every year.
A study published last year of 20,000 patients in 40 countries also found that TXA significantly cut death rates in bleeding patients. Based on those findings, researchers said TXA could save up to 100,000 lives a year, including around 13,000 in India, 12,000 in China, 2,000 in the U.S. and more in Europe.
They also said TXA, an off-patent generic medicine made by several companies and costing around $4.50 per gram, should be listed as “essential” by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Editing by Louise Ireland