Heart attacks strike when a blood clot blocks a major blood vessel in the heart. Currently, the best way to treat this is with drugs such as streptokinase, which dissolve the clot. But in many cases, the clot reappears. And the drugs can't keep clots from forming in the first place.
Now, scientists at G.D. Searle & Co., Merck & Co., and elsewhere are developing drugs that can prevent clots. These work by blocking one key step in clot formation: the binding of a protein called fibrinogen to certain types of blood cells. Searle, which announced its entry into the field on Aug. 25, envisions using the drug both in combination with dissolving agents after heart attacks and as a preventive measure in people at risk. As many as 40% of the 1.5 million Americans who suffer heart attacks each year could benefit from the new approach, predicts Searle researcher Jeffery A. Zablocki, who headed the development effort. "We feel our new agent could have a dramatic impact on myocardial infarction," he says.