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New stroke drug?

TEXT OF STORY

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Every three minutes someone in the United States dies of a stroke. Strokes are also the leading cause of disability, which costs as much as $43 billion a year. That's why health officials welcomed reports yesterday of a possible new drug treatment. Only, good luck finding a company to sell it. From the Health Desk at WGBH, Helen Palmer explains.


HELEN PALMER: Neurobiologists found that a class of drugs used to treat heart disease prevented rat brain cells from dying. They worked when used as long as six hours after the cells were starved of oxygen, as happens with a stroke.

The drugs come from the foxglove plant. They've been used for decades, and cost about 30 cents a piece.

But that may prevent these drugs from becoming a new stroke therapy, says drug analyst Mark Ravera, of Strategic Pharma.

MARK RAVERA: Because the drugs themselves are generally off patent, there's not that financial incentive for a pharmaceutical company to come in and de

velop this for the stroke indication. Clinical trials cost millions of dollars. Ravera says there's no way a drug company could recoup its investment unless the drug could be reformulated and win patent protection for strokes.

He suggests the National Institutes of Health could step in and fund some trials.

In Boston, I'm Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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