NEW YORK (AP) -- Doctors have known about it for decades, but now research appears to confirm that a cheap flu medicine could be the first treatment to speed recovery from severe brain injuries caused by falls and car crashes.
Severely injured patients who were given amantadine (uh-MAN'-tuh-deen) got better faster than those who received a dummy medicine. Far fewer patients who got amantadine remained in a vegetative state, 17 percent versus 32 percent.
Many doctors began using amantadine for brain injuries years ago, but until now there's never been a big study to show that it works. The results appear in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
But many questions remain, including whether people less severely injured would benefit, and whether amantadine improves long-term outcome or just speeds up recovery.
Each year, an estimated 1.7 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury.