Heart bypass surgery is performed to redirect blood around clogged arteries to increase blood flow and oxygen to the heart. A patient may undergo one, two, three or more bypasses depending on how many arteries are blocked. It is the most commonly performed major surgery in the US, with approximately 500,000 procedures conducted each year, according to Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery at Heart Center Online.
The FDA approved Trasylol in 1993 to control bleeding in patients undergoing heart surgery by blocking enzymes that dissolve blood clots. Although it was only approved for heart surgery, the drug has been administered off-label to patients undergoing other types of surgery.
Because the majority of patients are unaware of the drugs they receive during surgery, and also because of Trasylol's off-label use, medical experts say patients need to check with their doctors to see whether they received the drug.
A twofold increase in kidney failure
A 48-percent increase in risk of heart attack
A 109-percent increase in heart failure
A 181-percent increase in stroke
Researchers estimates that as many as 10,000 heart surgery patients have experienced kidney failure and are now on dialysis because they were given Trasylol.
"Our findings raise serious concerns regarding the safety of an approved drug intended to limit blood loss in at-risk patients undergoing surgery," wrote Dr Mangano in the NEJM.
Another study published in the January 20, 2006 online edition of the journal Transfusion reported a similar increase in renal problems among patients given Trasylol while undergoing cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass.
Trasylol was the second clotting medication in two weeks linked to serious complications. according to the Associated Press on January 26, 2006. Other researchers reported that the hemophilia drug Novoseven was linked to deaths, heart attacks and strokes in patients who took the drug to treat other types of excessive bleeding such as cerebral hemorrhagesm, it wrote.
Trasylol is manufactured by German-based Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals. The FDA has so far refused to remove the drug from the market, but on February 8, 2006, it posted a public health advisory on its web site that said, while FDA is continuing its evaluation, we are providing the following recommendations to healthcare providers and patients:
Physicians who use Trasylol should carefully monitor patients for the occurrence of toxicity, particularly to the kidneys, heart, or central nervous system and promptly report adverse event information to Bayer, the drug manufacturer, or to the FDA MedWatch program, as described at the end of this advisory.
Physicians should consider limiting Trasylol use to those situations where the clinical benefit of reduced blood loss is essential to medical management of the patient and outweighs the potential risks.
The NEJM study comes at a time when Bayer is pushing to have the drug approved for other surgery. The company recently filed a request seeking FDA approval for the use of Trasylol for hip and spinal surgery.
On December 8, 2005, Bayer announced the initiation of a Phase III clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Trasylol in reducing blood loss and the need for transfusion in adult patients undergoing elective spinal fusion surgery, in a press release.