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Cheap generic stops bleeding effectively but gets little use

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Tranexamic acid, made by Pfizer ($PFE) in injectable form and by many generic companies in other forms, has gotten heavy use in Iraq and Afghanistan for stanching bleeding. But it gets little play in U.S. hospitals, where it might save even more lives, according to a study.

The cheap generic is used in the U.K. and is even sold there and in Japan over-the-counter for heavy menstrual flow. But the drug has not been marketed heavily outside of the U.K. because it is so cheap, reports The New York Times.

Each year, an estimated 6 million people die of trauma, 400,000 of them in hospitals. A study published earlier this month in BMC Emergency Medicine estimated that wider use of tranexamic acid could save up to 128,000 of those people a year, including 4,000 in the U.S.

Pfizer, which produces an injectable form for hemophiliacs, donated thousands of doses to the trial. The company declined to discuss use of the drug for trauma patients, the Times reports, because the FDA has not approved that use, even though it can get off-label use.

Some hospitals in the U.S. are now using it, and others are looking into its effectiveness. The drug started getting heavy use by the U.S. on the battlefield after some military medical officials saw it was being used successfully on British soldiers. A study of 896 British patients found the severely wounded patients who got the drug survived twice as often as those who did not.

- read The New York Times story
- here's the BMC study

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