A drug used to treat heavy menstrual periods could also save the lives of heavily bleeding trauma patients, according to a new review.

In one trial of more than 20,000 people, the drug reduced the number of deaths from severe bleeding by 15 percent, the study found.

The new finding shows that tranexamic acid, an inexpensive drug that allows blood to clot more easily, can also be used to help people with severe injuries, said study researcher Ian Roberts, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in England.

Not much research is done on trauma patients because "funding has been low in comparison to other problems," Roberts told MyHealthNewsDaily. "Many trauma doctors do not know that [tranexamic acid] saves lives."

Tranexamic acid is already given to women who have heavy menstrual flows and people undergoing surgery to reduce the need for a blood transfusion.

The study was published today (Jan. 18) in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

70,000 potential lives saved

Roberts and his colleagues looked at the results of two previous trials that tested tranexamic acid's effectiveness in stopping bleeding.

When the results of the large trial were combined with those of another trial of 240 people, the researchers found tranexamic acid reduced deaths from severe bleeding by 10 percent, compared with people with traumatic injuries who didn't receive the drug.

That means 70,000 lives could be saved worldwide if the drug was used to reduce bleeding in trauma patients, the study said. 

Inexpensive solution

With more research, tranexamic acid could soon be brought into emergency rooms to stop severe bleeding in patients who have problems with blood clotting, said Dr. Christopher Dente, associate director of trauma at Emory University's Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, who wasn't involved with the review.

Tranexamic acid is a promising treatment because "it's not an expensive drug, and there's not a whole lot of side effects," Dente told MyHealthNewsDaily.

Physicians at Grady Memorial don't currently use the drug to stop bleeding in trauma patients, but are aware of its benefits and are considering using it for this purpose, he said.

But doctors would likely use the drug only for people who have coagulopathy — a blood-clotting disorder that leads to heavy bleeding in injured people, Dente said.

Tranexamic acid also would likely be used for people who need a massive transfusion of 10 or more units of blood, not just for injured people who need one or two units of blood, he said.

Pass it on: A drug used to treat heavy periods could help save lives in emergency rooms.

Follow MyHealthNewsDaily staff writer Amanda Chan on Twitter @AmandaLChan.

This article was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience.