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Drug plugs vessel in babies' hearts.

The Food and Drug Administration last week approved a new use for an old drug--intravenous administration of an anti-inflammatory agent to shut down a blood vessel in babies' hearts that sometimes fails to close on its own. The drug, indomethacin, is currently used to treat arthritis.

In the fetus, the artery that runs from the heart to the lungs is connected to the artery that carries blood from the heart to the body, siphoning most blood flow away from the lungs. Normally, this vessel closes within a few days of birth, and blood pumped from the heart goes to the lungs. But in about 16,000 babies (most of them premature) in the United States each year, the vessel doesn't close of its own accord and surgery is performed.

Indomethacin is believed to work by limiting production of chemicals that hold the muscles around the vessel open and relaxed. The drug occasionally causes kidney damage, and, unlike the surgical repair, it is not always successful. Nevertheless, it does avoid the trauma and expense of surgery, says Jean S. Kan, a pediatric cardiologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who expects that the drug will become the treatment of choice.
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Title Annotation:indomethacin
Author:Silberner, Joanne
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 2, 1985
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