BAGHDAD, Iraq // American military doctors in Iraq have injected more than 1,000 of the war’s wounded troops with a potent and largely experimental blood-coagulating drug despite mounting medical evidence linking it to deadly blood clots that lodge in the lungs, heart and brain.
The drug, called Recombinant Activated Factor VII, is approved in the U.S. for treating only rare forms of hemophilia affecting about 2,700 Americans. In a warning last December, the Food and Drug Administration said that giving it to patients with normal blood could cause strokes and heart attacks. Its researchers published a study in January blaming 43 deaths on clots that developed after injections of Factor VII.
Doctors and researchers at civilian hospitals, including major medical centers such as Johns Hopkins and Massachusetts General Hospital, have largely rejected it as a standard treatment for trauma patients. Other hospitals studying Factor VII, including the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, say they have grown increasingly cautious about administering it because of clots found in their patients, including some that have caused deaths.
Meanwhile, doctors at military hospitals in Germany and the United States have reported unusual and sometimes fatal blood clots in soldiers evacuated from Iraq, including unexplained strokes, heart attacks and pulmonary embolisms, or blood clots in the lungs. And some have begun to suspect Factor VII.