Health Chiefs Move To Allay Stroke Fear

The Department of Health last night insisted it is committed to providing high quality care for stroke patients in Northern Ireland in response to criticism that it was denying sufferers a ‘clot- busting’ drug.

The Department said it is currently assessing a drug called Alteplase which is used in the treatment of ischaemic strokes, which are caused by blocked arteries.

It issued a statement in response to accusations by the Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Association that stroke patients were being denied a clot-busting drug called Tissue Plasiminogen Activator (TPA) which is already available in the rest of the UK.

The charity’s chief executive Andrew Dougal said the drug could drive down the number of victims suffering long-term disability if it was available.

Around 4,500 people suffer strokes in Northern Ireland each year, making it the biggest cause of disability.

The Department said: “The vast majority of people who have a stroke are managed in an acute hospital and have access to the specialist care they require.

“Thrombolysis (clot-busting therapy) has the potential to improve outcomes for the small proportion of stroke patients whose stroke is due to a blood clot. However for some stroke patients it is also a high-risk treatment.

“In June, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) recommended a thrombolytic drug, Alteplase, for the treatment of acute ischaemic stroke.”

The statement added that Department officials are currently assessing this recommendation and “its applicability to Northern Ireland and will issue guidance on this matter shortly”.