Clotting agents buy wounded troops life-saving time
April 14, 2003
U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf were sent into battle with medical innovations that are proving their promise to cut the number of battlefield deaths due to excessive bleeding.
They’ve been designed to control bleeding by speeding up the clotting process. The most successful so far, according to preliminary battlefield reports, is a powder called QuikClot that one day will be standard Marine Corps issue for every individual first- aid kit.
QuikClot is a granular substance similar to a clay powder that can be poured directly onto a wound, almost instantly forming a clot and stopping bleeding. It works by sucking the water molecules out of blood, accelerating the natural clotting factors.
The other new method involves two kinds of bandages that also cause blood to quickly coagulate. One, produced by HemCon Inc. of Portland, Ore., stops arterial bleeding within a minute when applied with pressure on a wound. It’s made of chitosan, an extract of shrimp shells, and costs about $90 per bandage.
HemCon’s bandage was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in November, and the Army ordered 26,000, according to the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research in San Antonio. A couple thousand have already made it to the troops in Iraq, and preliminary reports show they have performed well.
Another bandage, being developed by the American Red Cross, is made of clotting proteins extracted from human blood. At a $1,000 each, use has been limited so far.
QuikClot, the Marine Corps’ coagulant of choice, has been used extensively.
Marines are adding the powder, priced at $20 for a 3½-ounce packet, to first-aid kits for troops bound for the Gulf. The substance is designed to help wounded soldiers control bleeding until they can be reached and treated by medics.
“QuikClot is the only FDA product that has repeatedly been shown to be effective,” said Rear Admiral R.D. Hufstader, medical officer of the Marine Corps.
Studies have shown that excessive bleeding causes have of all battlefield deaths.
“We have anecdotal evidence that QuikClot has been extremely successful in the field,” said Jenny Holbert, public affairs director for the Marine Corps War- fighting Laboratory in Quantico, Va., which tested the substance before approving its distribution in first-aid kits in the Gulf.
“We sent 15,000 packets in enhanced first-aid kits to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force,” she said. “We don’t have any official reports yet, but from all we are hearing it’s been very successful.
“We’re not expecting to get any formal feedback on how well it performed until things slow down.”
Tests on animals showed that QuikClot turned wounds that once were 100 percent fatal into wounds that were 100 percent nonfatal, according to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences at Bethesda, Md.
Bart Gullong, vice president of Z-Medica, the small Connecticut company that makes QuikClot, said he has received reports from the battlefield that his company’s product was performing well.
“We have received confirmed reports from Iraq of multiple uses of QuikClot on the battlefield with multiple lives saved and no adverse effects,” Gullong said from his firm’s Newington, Conn., headquarters. “This is the first significant use of our product on the battlefield, and it is performing as expected.”
Gullong said he was excited by the reports.
“This is the real deal, absolutely the real deal,” he said. “It’s just great news. This is what we’ve been working towards. We’ve already delivered thousands of units to the military, and we’re still getting orders every day.”
He said the company received FDA approval last May and immediately began manufacturing the QuikClot kits for the military.
“We started with the understanding that the conflict was coming, and we wanted to be sure the troops were equipped with our product,” he said. “Now, we’re identifying distributors and marketing strategies for all first responders, such as police, firefighters and paramedics — anyone who is first on the scene of a severe bleeding injury.
“We also expect a consumer version for families to be ready for sale Aug. 1.”
He said a pack of five units would cost about $10.
Gullong said employees of the small company feel like they’re on a “mission.”
“About a year and a half ago, I went to see the movie B‘Black Hawk Down’ with my wife, just about the time we were beginning to concentrate on QuikClot,” he said. “And I don’t mean to get sappy, but when I saw the soldiers on the screen die because of loss of blood, well, that really did something for me.
“I walked out of the theater thinking that there are two times in my life when I really felt like I’d been put on this Earth for a purpose. Once was when my daughter was born. The other time was seeing that movie and knowing we could make a difference and save lives.
“This has not been as much a business for us as a mission.”