Tue, Mar 22, 2005 - Page 4 News List

New drug can limit the risk of recurrent strokes, doctors say

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

A combination drug that has recently been approved for medical aid coverage could reduce the risk of recurrent strokes, a group of neurologists reported yesterday.

After cancer, strokes have been the second most common cause of death in Taiwan since 1983, according to statistics released by the Department of Health. Every year, about 14,000 people die as a result of strokes, official figures showed.

According to neurologists, strokes are 10 times more likely to occur in patients who have previously suffered a stroke.

"Studies showed that three in 1,000 people above the age of 35 have strokes in Taiwan each year. What's worse, 5 to 14 percent of people who survived a first stroke will have another within a year," said Wong Wen-chang (翁文章), secretary-general of the Taiwan Stroke Society and a neurologist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.

Wong added that 25 to 40 percent of people who survive a first stroke are likely to suffer another one within five years.

Apart from diet management and regular exercise, a platelet inhibitor which combines aspirin and dipyridamole is also effective in preventing recurrent strokes, doctors said.

"For patients afflicted by ischemic stroke, the new platelet inhibitor can lessen the chance of a stroke recurring," said Liu Hsiang-ren (劉祥仁), director at Keelung Chang Kang Memorial Hospital's department of neurology.

The platelet inhibitor, sold under the brand name Aggrenox in the US and Canada, has been proven to be effective in preventing platelets from clumping together and forming blood clots, Liu said.

Referring to a two-year-long European study on Aggrenox's effects involving more than 6,000 stroke patients, Lin said that the drug can reduce the possibility of a relapse by 37 percent.

The Bureau of National Health Insurance approved medical aid coverage of the drug last November.

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