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Progesterone Studied As Remedy for Brain-Injured Patients

Posted on: June 29th, 2012 by Romanucci & Blandin

Published by the Chicago personal injury attorneys at Romanucci & Blandin

Traumatic brain injury has been a frequent subject on our blog because the numbers are astounding: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1.7 million people a year in the U.S. experience a brain injury of this type.

Of that number, 275,000 are hospitalized, more than 50,000 will die, and more than five million are likely to suffer from a long-term disability. Traumatic brain injuries continue to be headlines because of the large number suffered by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the risk of concussions in football and serious accidents.

With these dire numbers, it’s not surprising researchers are hard at work to uncover remedies. And, according to a recent article in the New York Times, their studies are focusing on “a surprising new treatment that could minimize the damage… a three-day infusion of progesterone, the reproductive hormone.”

The National Institutes of Health is financing a study overseen by Emory University in Atlanta. It will test whether progesterone can reduce deaths and disability if administered right after a traumatic brain injury.

New York Times reporter David Tuller explains, “Patients must begin the infusion within four hours of the injury, with outcomes assessed after six months. The study is one of two large trials that have generated excitement among doctors because no medications have been approved for preventing the worst outcomes associated with serious brain injuries.”

The current study was an outgrowth of a 2007 trial at Emory where the death rates after 30 days among 100 brain-injured patients was just 13 percent for those who received progesterone, while the rate for those on a placebo was 30 percent.

It was Donald Stein, a neuroscientist and a professor of emergency medicine at Emory, who first noticed that female rats who had high levels of progesterone were better than male rats at remembering certain tasks, “like how to swim through a water maze after an induced brain injury.”

Eventually, the trial at Emery will include 1,140 participants at trauma centers around the country. While results are expected within three years, “a safety monitoring board will examine preliminary results this summer and could halt the study if the data suggests that the drug is highly effective.”

BHR Pharma is conducting a second large trial and is using a different progesterone formulation from the one in the Emory trial.

Dr. James Quinn, a professor of emergency medicine at Stanford, which is also participating in the N.I.H. study, is quoted as saying, “If the findings are positive, the potential benefits could extend to other serious conditions.”

Along with the military, football leagues, and victims of brain injuries and their families, we’ll be following these progesterone studies with eager hope for positive news.

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