New Jersey doctors are tapping an unlikely source to help stroke patients.
The venom of the Malaysian pit viper is the potent ingredient found in an experimental drug called Viprinex now being tested at three New Jersey hospitals. When given intravenously, Viprinex has been shown to help dissolve clots that plug arteries and cut off oxygen and blood flow to the brain.
According to doctors, the major advantage of Viprinex, which also thins the blood, is that it may be effective as long as six hours after a stroke patient's symptoms begin. That would double the window of the only government-approved clot-busting therapy, called tPA, which must be given within three hours.
The fact that less than five percent of stroke victims get to a hospital in time has greatly limited the use of tPa, or tissue plasminogen activator. In addition, some doctors are hesitant to use the drug, which
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