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Heart Drug

MagazineApril 2009 (Vol. 20 Issue 1)Heart Drug

Aprotinin is a drug that's routinely given to patients as they undergo coronary-artery surgery

Aprotinin is a drug that's routinely given to patients as they undergo coronary-artery surgery. The agent was designed to limit blood loss and is so effective that, last year alone, 246,000 Americans were given it during their operations.

Unfortunately, it's only just been discovered-13 years after it was first used-that the patient is almost twice as likely to die afterwards because of it. Everyone already knew that the drug had its problems: it causes kidney poisoning, and can cause a whole new set of heart problems unrelated to the original condition.

Now, in a new study of 4374 heart patients, researchers have found that the drug almost doubles the chances of killing the patient within five years of the surgery compared with patients who were not given the drug.

In all, aprotinin was associated with the deaths of 20 per cent of the 1072 patients given it, a frightening statistic that suggests it may be responsible for the deaths of around 50,000 of the patients given the drug only last year.

The study authors concluded that cardiologists might like to "think twice" before administering aprotinin ever again (JAMA, 2007; 297: 471-9).

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