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Is Activase the same as tPA?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on Nov 17, 2021.

Official answer


Yes, Activase is the same as tPA but technically tPA is an abbreviation for tissue plasminogen activator which is the drug class that encompasses all tissue plasminogen activators of which there are 3 that have been FDA approved in the United States, namely:

  • Activase (generic name alteplase)
  • Retavase (generic name reteplase)
  • TNKase (generic name Tenecteplase).

Sometimes healthcare professionals use "tPA" to refer to Activase because it was the first tissue plasminogen activator that was approved. But this may cause confusion and has been the reason behind dozens of medication errors. The main issue is that Activase is indicated for managing acute myocardial infarction, acute ischemic stroke, and acute massive pulmonary embolism. But the other tissue plasminogen activators—Retavase and TNKase—are indicated ONLY for managing acute myocardial infarction, and are not FDA-approved for acute ischemic stroke or pulmonary embolism.

Errors often arise because of confusion between the abbreviation TNK and tPA, which has resulted in TNKase being given to stroke patients instead of the intended Activase.

Because all three drugs—Activase, TNKase, and Retavase—are tissue plasminogen activators, referring to any one of these products as "tPA" may lead to confusion about the intended product. To avoid confusion, do not use the abbreviation tPA, instead write down exactly the name of the drug intended.

  • tPA and TNK Mix-ups: Clearing Up the Confusion. Sept 11, 2015. Medscape
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator for Acute Ischemic Stroke (Alteplase, Activase®) National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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