BACKGROUND: NXY-059 is a free-radical-trapping agent that is neuroprotective in animal models of stroke. We tested whether it would reduce disability in humans after acute ischemic stroke. METHODS: We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 1722 patients with acute ischemic stroke who were randomly assigned to receive a 72-hour infusion of placebo or intravenous NXY-059 within 6 hours after the onset of the stroke. The primary outcome was disability at 90 days, as measured according to scores on the modified Rankin scale for disability (range, 0 to 5, with 0 indicating no residual symptoms and 5 indicating bedbound, requiring constant care). RESULTS: Among the 1699 subjects included in the efficacy analysis, NXY-059 significantly improved the overall distribution of scores on the modified Rankin scale, as compared with placebo (P=0.038 by the Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel test). The common odds ratio for improvement across all categories of the scale was 1.20 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.01 to 1.42). Mortality and rates of serious and nonserious adverse events were each similar in the two groups. NXY-059 did not improve neurologic functioning as measured according to the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS): the difference between the two groups in the change from baseline scores was 0.1 point (95 percent confidence interval, -1.4 to 1.1; P=0.86). Likewise, no improvement was observed according to the Barthel index (P=0.14). In a post hoc analysis of patients who also received alteplase, NXY-059 was associated with a lower incidence of any hemorrhagic transformation (P=0.001) and symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage (P=0.036). CONCLUSIONS: The administration of NXY-059 within six hours after the onset of acute ischemic stroke significantly improved the primary outcome (reduced disability at 90 days), but it did not significantly improve other outcome measures, including neurologic functioning as measured by the NIHSS score. Additional research is needed to confirm whether NXY-059 is beneficial in ischemic stroke.