Dr. Chelsea Kidwell, medical director of the Georgetown University Stroke Center and author of the study, tells WAMU's Pat Brogan that the drug, called tPA, is currently the only proven and FDA-approved treatment for acute ischemic stroke. Kidwell says tPA is administered into a patient's vein to help break up blood clots when a patient has a stroke and can reverse the signs and symptoms of a stroke, including paralysis and loss of speech.
"But importantly, tPA must be given within a few hours of symptom on-set, so people need to know to call 911, and don't delay getting to the hospital," she says.
Among the reasons African-Americans are not receiving tPA as often, Kidwell says, "is that the African-American population does not get to the hospital in time. They don't call 911."
Also, Kidwell says, African-American patients are more likely to have existing medical conditions, like high blood pressure, that would make tPA unsafe for them.
"[In] patients who do arrive in time and are eligible for treatment, there in fact is no racial disparity," she says. "So our finding is important in showing that there's no institutional or medical care bias in treating patients."
Kidwell says the next step is to create "culturally tailored" and relevant education programs to teach people about stroke signs and symptoms and prepare them to call 911.