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Too many stroke victims don't get clot-busting drug

Staff Writer |
Stroke victims can be saved through the timely use of a powerful clot-busting drug, but certain groups of patients still aren't getting the medication quickly enough to help.

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Blacks, Hispanics, women, seniors on Medicare and people in rural areas are less likely to be treated with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) after suffering a stroke, researchers found.

The drug works by dissolving clots that have blocked flow of blood to the brain, causing what is called an ischemic stroke.

To have any effect, tPA must be administered within 4.5 hours of the start of a stroke, and it appears many patients aren't getting to the hospital and through emergency evaluation in time to receive the drug, said lead researcher Dr. Tracy Madsen.

She's an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School in Providence, R.I.

Her study team reviewed the records of more than 563,000 patients who suffered an ischemic stroke between 2005 and 2011.

Every year, patients were 11 percent more likely to be treated by tPA, even though across the entire period of time only 3.8 percent of total patients got the clot-busting drug, researchers reported.

The team found certain types of patients were less likely to receive tPA:

- Blacks were 38 percent less likely than whites.
- Hispanics were 25 percent less likely than whites.
- Women were 6 percent less likely than men.
- People with private insurance were 29 percent more likely to receive tPA compared to those on Medicare.

People living in the so-called "Stroke Belt" in the southeastern United States were 31 percent less likely than those living elsewhere to receive tPA.

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