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Experimental Drug Derived From Snake Venom Shows Promise In Reversing Effects Of Stroke

NASHVILLE, Feb. 4 -- A stroke therapy derived from snake venom? According to researchers, it's not a snake oil story, but instead a possible new way to help people recover from the devastating effects of stroke.

Scientists announced the results of a 500-person trial examining the effects of an experimental stroke drug called ANCROD here today at the 24th American Heart Association International Conference on Stroke and Cerebral Circulation.

Researchers found that 42 percent of stroke victims treated with ANCROD within three hours of stroke onset had recovered the physical and mental abilities that they had prior to the stroke.

In comparison, 34 percent of those receiving an inert substance, or placebo, regained their previous faculties. However, stroke patients who received ANCROD were also at a higher risk of bleeding in the brain (5 percent of patients) when compared to those who received the placebo (2 percent).

ANCROD is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration for stroke treatment. Tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) is the only FDA-approved acute stroke treatment.

ANCROD is derived from the venom of a pit viper snake. Researchers discovered that in people who were bitten by the snake, blood failed to clot. Based on that observation, the venom was utilized as an anticoagulant, helping blood flow more freely through vessels.

"Like clot-dissolving drugs TPA and urokinase, the goal was for ANCROD to be administered within three hours of stroke onset," says the study's lead author, David Sherman, M.D. "Also, none of these three drugs are for use in patients who have hemorrhagic strokes, caused by a burst or leaking blood vessel in the brain."

There are sharp contrasts between the treatments, however, says Sherman.

TPA is administered in a single-dose, hour-long injection and results can be seen soon thereafter. ANCROD is given intravenously through
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Contact: Brian Henry or Cathy Yarbrough
615-231-1601
American Heart Association
4-Feb-1999


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