Frontline Stroke Treatment to be Reviewed

In an apparent effort to ‘restore public trust’, the Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies has called for a review of the safety and efficacy of medicines. The first treatment to be reviewed will be thrombolysis. The reviews will be undertaken by the Academy of Medical Sciences. Thrombolysis involves the use of powerful drugs to dissolve blood clots which have caused a stroke. The NHS drug of choice is called alteplase. Each year in the UK, there are more than 150,000 strokes. About 85% are caused by an obstruction blocking the flow of blood to the brain. Patients with this type of stroke may be eligible for treatment with alteplase, subject to tests in hospital. When advising patients about the treatment doctors will often advise that for every three people treated with alteplase one will make some extra improvement, and one in seven will recover their independence who would not do so otherwise. In terms of risks patients are told that there is a 6 in 100 chance of bleeding which could be major bleeding in the brain. In the extreme, this could cause further brain damage or death. Some doctors say the benefits have been exaggerated and say that the small group of patients who benefit, does not justify the risk of a worse injury or even death. The former president of the Royal College of Physicians, Sir Richard Thompson states:“My worry is that the trials are not consistent, that the evidence is not strong enough to be giving, after all, a very expensive treatment,” he said. Additionally there are calls for all trial data to be published and analysed. But Dr Dale Webb, from the Stroke Association, defended the treatment. He said: “The evidence says that alteplase has made a big impact on the recovery of stroke survivors. We have to remember that the number of disabilities associated with stroke is greater than any other medical condition.” “What alteplase has done is to improve the long-term recovery outcomes for stroke patients.” Patrick Oliver, clinical negligence specialist at Setfords Solicitors agrees with Dr Webb: “I have seen first hand the devastating injuries left by stroke. People lose their independence and require long term care as a result. This is costly in both human and monetary terms and it seems that even if one third of patients experience a better outcome, it must be worth it. It could be that little bit extra which would save someone’s independence.” If you have had medical treatment you are concerned about, contact Patrick now on 01635 887 665.