Saturday, 25 October 2008

When you hear about a new wonder drug read the small print

So a potential new MS drug called Campath made the headlines this week and lots of friends and family talked to me about it. It's great to know people are thinking of you when they hear news of this kind. Interesting that it is often potential medical breakthroughs that are the "good news" stories in the media. Until being directly concerned I'd never thought much about this.
This week I was a bit shocked to discover that this potential new wonder drug which could perhaps reverse my symptoms, can also have very serious side effects -like a very increased likelihood of developing a serious thyroid disorder or "a rare blood condition called immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) that can lead to abnormal bleeding and even death. Six patients on Campath developed ITP during the trial, and one [of the 364] died."
Hmm ... so we're not quite there yet, although this new drug does promise great results for some people the real truth is that probably no drug will be a magic wand. People living with chronic illness and disease in countries with good health care systems are often faced with difficult decisions about their treatment and it's not easy stepping through the minefield of medical information. What would you do with odds of a 1 in 300 chance of death if there was also a 1 in 2 chance of you being able to walk normally again, and then balance that together with a 1 in 5 chance of developing the blood disorder and wondering whether living with MS is more bearable than that?
So behind the good news of brilliant medical advances, is the hard truth that most of us with the illness will continue with our current treatment and wait and see what happens next and what decisions our doctors will face us with. Writing this I realise what a huge privilege it is to benefit from the medecine I currently get. Perhaps I should direct some of the extra years of better health it gives me to campaigning for those who have no access to decent health care and medication.

1 Comment:

Tom Zweifler said...

Here's something else on drug trials from today's Gruaniad:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/oct/25/medical-research-science-health