Daily Mail UK.
One of the greatest risks of surgery is blood loss. There is a cheap drug which dramatically reduces the risk of haemorrhaging, but experts say it’s being ignored by British doctors, putting the thousands of patients who have an op every year in unnecessary danger.
Why? The drug is out of patent, meaning pharmaceutical companies aren’t interested in making it widely available, because they won’t make money from it.
The medicine, called tranexamic acid, is sold over the counter under the brand names Cyklo-F and Femstrual to help women affected by heavy periods.
But research has shown injections of the drug can also reduce bleeding and the need for blood transfusions during surgery — and it can also help stop victims of traffic accidents and other serious injuries from bleeding to death, with no serious side-effects.
It’s even used by the British and U.S. military, but experts such as Ian Roberts, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, say our operating theatres and accident and emergency departments are lagging behind on this key development.
‘We have known this drug reduces bleeding in surgery for over a decade now,’ says Prof Roberts. ‘There is research which shows it reduces the need for blood transfusions by about a third in all types of operations. But it is still not being widely used.’
Tranexamic acid works by helping the blood to clot — it stops fibrinolysis, a natural process that breaks down blood clots in the body. When there is a risk of excessive bleeding, tranexamic acid can be a lifesaver.
An injectable form of the drug is made by Pfizer for use in some conditions associated with excessive bleeding such as prostate surgery and tooth extractions in people with haemophilia. But what baffles the experts is why it isn’t given routinely in surgery. In June 2010, a large international trial run in 40 countries including the UK and involving 20,000 patients found that the drug could be used successfully to save the lives of trauma victims — badly injured patients with serious bleeding, for example from road accidents or stabbings.