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AHCPR, Duke University, and DuPont Merck Sign Agreement to Continue Stroke Prevention Research

Press Release Date: April 30, 1996

The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) announced today that it has signed a landmark agreement with Duke University and DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Company to extend the work of the AHCPR-funded patient outcomes research team (PORT) to examine the most effective way to prevent stroke in high-risk patients.

Under the agreement, Duke University will conduct a 3-year randomized trial to evaluate the effectiveness of anticoagulation services for preventing strokes by promoting the appropriate use of the anticoagulant drug warfarin. The trial has been named MAST (Managing Anticoagulation Services Trial).

The study will be conducted in various managed care organizations and will involve up to 2,500 patients with atrial fibrillation, a condition characterized by rapid and erratic beating of the heart which increases the risk of stroke. The project will be headed by David Matchar, M.D., principal investigator of AHCPR's stroke prevention PORT, and will receive up to $1.5 million in funding from DuPont Merck, which manufactures warfarin, to supplement AHCPR's funding.

The stroke prevention PORT originally was funded by AHCPR in 1991. The PORT's analysis of the best available scientific evidence suggests that warfarin is effective in preventing strokes in many patients with atrial fibrillation.

Last fall, the investigators announced that increasing the use of warfarin could prevent as many as 40,000 strokes a year in persons with atrial fibrillation and save nearly $600 million a year in health care costs. It is generally acknowledged that warfarin is underutilized in these patients.

According to AHCPR Administrator Clifton Gaus, Sc.D., today's agreement brings the Agency together in a new way with academia and the private sector.

"AHCPR and its partners are committed to continuing the groundbreaking work of the PORT because we recognize that additional research is needed to effectively implement the use of warfarin in everyday medical practice for those patients at high risk for stroke," said Gaus. Duke University provides the clinical and research expertise; AHCPR provides scientific oversight and financial support; and DuPont Merck provides technical assistance and financial support.

"This is the first time that AHCPR has entered into a formal partnership of this kind with the private sector, and it will be the first of many," Gaus said. "We want to work often in collaboration with the private sector to pursue important research on questions regarding the quality and costs of health care."

According to David Matchar, M.D., this agreement is vital to helping health care providers deliver appropriate and cost-effective stroke prevention therapy. "Through this partnership we are able to translate the findings of our research into real-world information for physicians and other health professionals who treat persons at risk for stroke every day," Matchar said.

"Our company is committed to furthering research in the area of disease prevention. The AHCPR Stroke PORT identified the opportunity to save lives. We are pleased to be a part of MAST, which will provide valuable information on stroke prevention," said Kurt Landgraf, president and C.E.O of DuPont Merck.

Note to Editors: For more information, contact Renee Twombly at Duke University, (919) 684-4148; or Andrea Scibelli at DuPont Merck, (302) 892-1306.

For additional information, contact AHCPR Public Affairs: Karen Migdail, (301) 427-1855 or Salina Prasad, (301) 427-1864.

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