Old Drug Finds New, Life-saving Use in Orange County

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email

April 16, 2014

A life-saving drug has been around for decades in the United States and around the world, and now it's found new use in Orange County.

"It's being used now in a different way than has previously been done," said Tom Joyce, the assistant chief at Orange County's Department of Fire and EMS. "This isn't really a new drug. This is, to an extent, an old dog with a new trick."

The drug is called tranexamic acid, or TXA. Essentially, it helps blood to clot faster.

"If you would use a very layman's term for this, it's kind of like a 'fix a flat for humans,'" Joyce said. "It will fix leaks. It will help to address leaking and bleeding."

It's most useful at trauma scenes, like car accidents.

"We will give this drug as soon as we think that it's reasonable to believe the illness or the state of this, the severity of the person's illness, is due to hemorrhage or bleeding," he said.

Orange County is one of the first localities in the region to use TXA, and its popularity is only beginning to spread.

"You're going to see this in the very near future extend out into other agencies in this area, and the hospitals," Joyce said.

After extensive, worldwide studies in 2010, researchers found a new use for the drug that was primarily used before surgeries. Now, first responders can give a tiny dose of TXA through an IV in 10 minutes, and the results could be life-saving.

"We make very quick decisions that are very important on very little information," Joyce said. "You can make that decision very quick and give it to them, and the worst that would happen if you made a decision that wasn't best at the time, it wouldn't have done them any harm."

The drug has no side effects; it wouldn't harm somebody who didn't need it. And, for now, TXA is relatively cheap.

"You know, the price of a decent steak meal for two people, you can get this drug -- $100, thereabouts," Joyce said.

All of Orange County's ambulances are stocked with the drug. While emergency crews haven't had to use it yet, the drug has been shown to save at least 1 in 7 lives.

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