- In Middle East and North Africa (MENA), stroke is increasingly becoming a major health problem, with projections that deaths from it will nearly double by 20301. Specialists have highlighted the lack of data in the epidemiology of stroke in MENA region as a major challenge, while emphasizing on the urgent need to develop strategies to prevent and better care for stroke patients in the region.
- The annual incidence of strokes ranged from 27.6 to 57 per 100 000 in the Gulf countries with ischaemic stroke being the most common subtype.2 In Saudi Arabia it is estimated to be 186/ 100000 population,1 in Egypt around 963/100 000 population2 and in Lebanon 3.9% of the population.3
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 20, 2015: The Boehringer Ingelheim Stroke Academy, was launched by the leading pharmaceutical company, to establish optimum Stroke Management protocol in the region. The first of its kind effort introduced in the region, the Stroke Academy aims to bring together leading international experts, cardiologists and neurologists to highlight the unmet treatment challenges and identify effective measures. The stroke academy will not only bring forth the best medical practices in the management of stroke but also enable these experts to support patients, families and health authorities in the MENA region. The introductory launch meeting held at Istanbul, saw the experts engage in workshops, debates and panel discussions to bring forth the best medical practices, treatment protocols and scientific updates.
The Boehringer Ingelheim Stroke Academy will aim to establish comprehensive stroke management protocol in the region focusing on: prevention of stroke and immediate treatment on occurrence to save lives. Globally, stroke has been identified as one of the leading causes of death. Prevention of stroke measures would involve identification of risk factors which can lead to stroke like atrial fibrillation, irregular blood circulation, tendency for blood clotting which requires effective treatment to minimize the chances of stroke occurrence. The Stroke Academy will introduce the participating experts to the latest scientific advances in prevention treatment and symptom management protocol. At the same time, it will aim at establishing treatment protocols for emergency care which can help save lives, reduce door-to-need time (interval between patient’s arrival to the hospital and starting the treatment) and encourage better patient outcomes.
Atrial Fibrillation (AF) or abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating affects approximately 2% of the population and leads to a five-fold increase in the risk of stroke. In atrial fibrillation (AF), blood can pool in the heart’s upper chambers (atria) and form blood clots. If a blood clot forms, it can dislodge from the heart and travel to the brain, obstructing the flow of blood to the brain and causing a stroke. Blood clots can prevent flow of blood to other organs as well.4 Hence, effective medications like the New Oral Anti-Coagulants (NOACs) are used by doctors to not only prevent blood clots from causing stroke but also control further damage in case of stroke.
Professor Paul Dorian, Scientist and Director, Division of Cardiology and Department of Medicine, at University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital, Canada, commented, “Patients with atrial fibrillation experience a widely variable risk of stroke or systemic blood clotting which leads to fatal complications. Those who suffer from valvular heart disease are at an increased risk of thrombo-embolic events and the complications are amplified in the presence of atrial fibrillation. However, we are glad to say that we have effective medical treatment now available in the region, such asthe New Oral Anti-Coagulants which can be very effective in preventing stroke. There are also new strategies to provide immediate assistance in case of stroke occurrence to prevent mortality.”
Dr. Marjan Maghami, Head of Medical Affairs- Middle East and North Africa at Boehringer Ingelheim commented, “Safe and effective treatment for stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation, the urgency for immediate treatment after occurrence of stroke and reduction in the risk of recurrence, will bring down the economic and social burden of the life-threatening condition. The Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) Stroke Academy will lead a comprehensive stroke management protocol, while helping upgrade the existing medical practices, with an aim to support patients, families and health authorities.”
During stroke occurrence, immediate medical assistance is the key towards controlling disability as well as mortal consequences. Doctors have urged identification of early symptoms and signs of stroke like difficulty in speech, loss of balance, weakness or numbness of the face and severe headache. Once detected, the patient has to be immediately hospitalized and the stroke management team has to be immediately notified. Rapid diagnosis to determine the stroke and immediate medical treatment (in less than 60 minutes, known as the Golden Hour) will reduce chances of further complications. A dedicated stroke unit in hospitals, with a committed medical setting and physicians, specialized nurses, and other ancillary personnel with ample training and experience in stroke management can further reduce the home-to-treatment time.
Boehringer Ingelheim has recently introduced the ‘MENA Stroke Initiative’ which encourages establishment of stroke units in hospitals across the Middle East which will offer a dedicated stroke program to bring quicker, lifesaving treatment to stroke patients with effective outcomes. It is a part of the company’s corporate social responsibility approach towards ‘Making every second count, toward stroke recovery’, and an effort towards developing the overall stroke management approach in the region, focusing not only on providing effective medicines but also developing the infrastructure required to provide optimal care to patients.
Dr. Suhail Abdulla Al-Rukn, Neurology Consultant and Stroke Specialist, Neurology Department at Rashid Hospital-Dubai Health Authority; and Leader of the MENA Stroke Initiative who established the first certified stroke unit in the MENA region and outside Europe said, “We launched the first stroke unit in the region in Dubai last year and ever since we have witnessed great success in management of stroke, helping us to significantly bring down the associated mortality rates. Three more units are expected to be set-up in the UAE and we aim to set-up more units in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. The MENA Stroke Initiative will aim to: decrease door to needle times- which is the interval between patient’s arrival to the hospital and starting the treatment; establish dedicated stroke units; enable Healthcare practitioners (HCPs) with the technical know-how of stroke unit protocol; sustain quality care and facilities through unit certifications and introduction of latest scientific materials.”
The forum was attended by leading doctors from Middle East, North Africa and Turkey who highlighted the growing disease burden and the unmet treatment challenges that require immediate response.