With more than 1 million people in the U.S., including New Haven, suffering traumatic brain injuries each year, doctors and patients are naturally very interested in any new treatment that could potentially speed or improve recovery. The U.S. military is especially concerned about finding treatments for TBI. It is estimated that more than 250,000 servicemembers have suffered brain injuries in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as other deployments, since 2000.

One drug that many believed showed promise is citicoline, also known as CDP choline. It is a compound of choline, a chemical used by the body to create brain cells. Physicians in other countries routinely give it to brain injury and stroke patients, believing that it is beneficial. Citicoline is found in many foods and is also sold on the Internet as a memory and diet aid.

But a study published in the Nov. 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that citicoline has little to no benefit for brain injury patients. The wide-ranging study included more than 1,200 adult patients at eight hospitals who had suffered a TBI that ranged from mild to severe within the previous 24 hours. Half of the patients were prescribed a high dose of citicoline every day for three months and the other half were given a placebo.

At the end of the three months, those who took citicoline had no discernable improvement compared to the placebo group. Both groups' conditions improved at about the same rate. In fact, those with mild TBIs who took citicoline recovered slightly slower than those in the placebo group with similar injuries, which appears to be due to random chance.

The study's lead author said he and the committee behind the JAMA report were disappointed by the outcome. It may not be the end of citicoline and brain trauma. One supporter of the drug said that it still may be useful when used in combination with other medicines.

Source: CT Post, "Big disappointment in brain injury treatment study," Lindsey Tanner, Nov. 20, 2012

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