Giving stroke patients paracetamol 'could save 25,000 lives'
Treating stroke patients with antibiotics and the commonly-used painkiller paracetamol could save up to 25,000 lives across Europe each year, according to researchers.
A £4m study will investigate whether routinely offering these drugs to people who have just suffered a stroke would help to prevent complications such as infection and fever.
Stroke is the second leading cause of death around the world and accounts for the loss of almost seven million lives each year. It is also the second most common cause of long-term disability.
Researchers say up to half of stroke patients suffer high temperatures following their illness and a third contract infections that increase their risk of death and disability.
Around a quarter of patients have difficulty swallowing and face an increased risk of choking as a result.
The study, which will involve almost 4,000 patients from around Europe, will test whether offering the relatively low-cost drugs immediately following a stroke would reduce the risk of these complications occurring.
Patients aged 66 or older will be randomly allocated to receive either preventative treatment in the first four days of their hospitalisation, or to standard care.
Those receiving preventative care will be offered paracetamol to prevent high fevers and antibiotics to lower the risk of infections.
Professor Malcolm Macleod, from the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, who is leading the study in the UK, said: "We have made great progress in treating stroke, but it still remains a major cause of death and disability.
"This new trial aims to understand how to use existing treatments most effectively and has the potential to reduce risk of death or disability for as many as 25,000 people each year, at very low costs."
The trial is led by the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and is funded by the Horizon 2020 programme.