Struck by a Stroke

When you hear someone you know, suffered from a stroke, it does not seem likely that it could happen to you. Especially if you are fairly fit, exercise regularly and are barely past the middle age. In the case of Jarmo Aaltonen, an active salesperson from Turku, this was the case.

As Jarmo was entering his weekly floorball session his balance all of sudden failed him – and he was rushed to the University Hospital of Turku and was immediately diagnosed with a stroke.

“I have to admit, that it came as a total surprise. I look after myself and do sports on a regular basis – I did not see this coming.”

In December 2015 Jarmo was prescribed Marevan, a medication to dilute blood. However, with this medication one has to be very observant and Jarmo’s blood count did not respond well. His doctor recommended a new medication, and Jarmo did as was advised. After six months of consuming Marevan his medication was changed into Plavix, a similar medicine that is commonly used and contains clopidogrel.

Jarmo was recovering well and life was slowly getting back to its old ways. After a 3-month sick leave, Jarmo had been back to work and life was slowly getting back to normality. Most of all, Jarmo felt very privileged that he had recovered well, had received high-quality treatment and was able to work and function with no permanent damages in his health. A long period of good health was followed by some unpleasant side-effects that gradually kick in. It was autumn when he felt his state had severely collapsed.

“My wife had heard of pharmacogenetic testing. This was news to me, but my doctor at a public health care system was willing to prescribe the test for me – the results ended up being very significant regarding my personal medication.”

The Hidden Risks of Preventive Medicine

As Jarmo discussed the possibility of pharmacogenetic testing, his doctor saw this being relevant. As the results came in, it concluded that Jarmo had genetics that does not a response to clopidogrel. In other words, he had been consuming medication for 18 months that has no effect on him – it was only via pharmacogenetic testing that this information was found out. A stroke has a high percentage of renewing itself, it is crucial to have prevention medication at use.

“It truly was a relief to find out the medication did not work -since this resulted in re-evaluating my situation and changing into a new medicine that does the job.”

52 636 Finnish people are prescribed clopidogrel annually* (used in Plavix) and out of that 30 % do not have a response to the medicine. This means, that 15 000 people are consuming medication that they think is helping their body to resist the renewing of the stroke, but in reality, they might as well be popping mints. In some cases, clopidogrel can even cause damage rather than being only irrelevant.

“It truly was a relief to find out the medication did not work -since this resulted in re-evaluating my situation and changing into a new medicine that does the job.”

Jarmo’s doctor decided to change his medication based on the pharmacogenetics result. A medication that was a suitable match with Jarmo’s genotype.

In Jarmo’s case he found out the ill-match on time and no massive harm was done. Unfortunately, this is not the case with all stroke patients.

Current Care Guidelines provide a very sufficient database for further education on how a stroke should be treated.

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