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Health News

From Afghanistan to the ambulance: the warzone drug that will save hundreds of lives

The first drug approved under new 'medicines innovation scheme', TXA can stem fatal bleeding

A drug used to treat wounded soldiers in Afghanistan is to be fast-tracked for use in the NHS to help the victims of road traffic accidents and violent crime.

Click HERE to view 'how the new drug works' graphic

Under the plans, paramedics will be issued with supplies of the drug TXA, which has been successfully used by the British military to treat combat wounds from which 'death is imminent'.

The drug is the first to be approved under the Government's new 'medicines innovation scheme,' designed to speed up the adoption of promising medication for use in the NHS.

Ambulance crews working in the south-west of England already have access to TXA as part of a trial. The decision by the Department of Health means it will now be rolled out across the NHS starting this month.

The move comes after an international study suggested that the drug could save almost 300 lives a year if it was licensed for civilian use in Britain.

The drug, which acts to stem excessive bleeding, reduced the overall risk of death by 10 per cent, and the chances of dying due to bleeding by 15 per cent, the study showed.

More than four million people around the world die from injuries every year, of whom half die in hospital. A total of 600,000 deaths are as a result of bleeding after those injuries.

In Britain, TXA could prevent about 280 of the 1,800 deaths that occur each year as a result of bleeding after injury.

The CRASH2 study, which was partly funded by the Department of Health and led by doctors from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, suggests that TXA should be used as a rapid intervention in all such cases.

At present, the drug is used for patients undergoing non-emergency surgery, haemophiliacs and to treat women with heavy periods. It is not licensed to be used by paramedics or in hospitals for the victims of accidents.

But given its potential, Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, intends to make TXA the first drug to be assessed under a new scheme to promote innovative uses for drugs outside their original authorisation. The scheme will be fully running by summer.

Mr Lansley said: "The successful use of this drug to help some of our most seriously wounded troops in Afghanistan really shows the wide potential it has for our civilian emergency services.

"I'll be asking it to be assessed under a new scheme, which aims to encourage more innovative life-saving developments into the NHS."

The study involved adults in 274 hospitals who had suffered traumatic injuries. Participants received either two milligrams of TXA, also known by the brand name Cyklokapron, administered by an injection and drip or an inactive placebo treatment. In total, 489 (4.9 per cent of) patients in the TXA group bled to death compared with 574 (5.7 per cent) in the placebo group.