CHICAGO — The hunt for brain injury treatments has suffered a big disappointment in a major study that found zero benefits from a supplement that the U.S. military had hoped would help wounded troops.
The supplement is marketed as a memory booster online and in over-the-counter powders and drinks. It is also widely used by doctors in dozens of countries to treat traumatic brain injuries and strokes, although evidence on whether it works has been mixed.
U.S. scientists had high hopes that in large doses it would help speed recovery in patients with brain injuries from car crashes, falls, sports accidents and other causes. But in the most rigorous test yet, citicoline (see-tee-KOH’-leen) worked no better than dummy treatments at reducing forgetfulness, attention problems, difficulty concentrating and other symptoms.
“We very much were disappointed,” said Dr. Ross Zafonte, the lead author and a traumatic brain injury expert at Harvard Medical School. “We took a therapy that is utilized worldwide and we found that at least its present use should be called into question.”
The study involved 1,213 patients aged 18 and older hospitalized at eight U.S. trauma centers. They had mild to severe traumatic brain injuries — blows to the head resulting in symptoms ranging from dizziness to loss of consciousness and with complications including brain bleeding or other damage.