For You New Guys: Now What?

I wrote this article for www.hepatitiscnews.com.  Visit their site for more information.

You have hepatitis C (HCV) and have only heard scary things. Your best friend is knowledge, not just facts. It is no good to just bring your liver to treatment. You must bring your mind as well.

Quit drinking or taking drugs? If not, come back when you do.

What to learn:

Doctors: Your insurance will pay the same amount for a hepatologist or a gastroenterologist. Go for a hepatologist. All he thinks about is the liver.

Treatment Lingo: Learn it. This language is the only way you have to talk with your treatment team.

  • VR: Viral load – number of viruses per ml of blood is written      in logs
  • Log: simply a way to not write all the zeros in a number. 1,000,000 is 1 million viruses per ml of blood, is 6 logs
  • RVR: Rapid Virologic Response – hep C undetectable at week 4 of  treatment
  • NR: Null Response – no decrease in virus at week 12 of treatment
  • PR: Partial Response – small decline in virus at week 12 but still detectable at week 24
  • SVR: Sustained Virologic Response – undetectable virus 6 months after treatment completed. The goal!
  • Genotype: Most people in the US are Genotype I. Learn yours. Treatment choices are based on genotype

Depression: If you are like me and inclined toward depression, ask your doctor if you can start antidepressants before treatment. It’s easier to get ahead of depression than try to catch up to it. This can make the difference between completing treatment and not.

Available Treatments: Currently the standard of care (SOC) includes Interferon, which is harsh. Soon treatments will be available without Interferon. Can you wait? Talk to your doctor. All treatments include at least 2 drugs to attack the virus at two different sites in the life cycle (think of killing fleas on your pet).

flea life cycle

Another approach: I am a scientist as well as a treatment success. Here is what I did and why: I looked up clinical trials in my city at clinicaltrials.gov. I found a research site and participated in trials there.

The advantage: Newest treatments and a team focused on my health with close monitoring of my whole body, not just my liver. All treatment is free and you can opt out if you don’t feel comfortable.

The disadvantage: You must commit to follow the protocol. My first treatment drugs were SOC and didn’t work so I went through treatment again. But, this was successful and I am cured!

One note of warning: They are researchers and so they don’t know all the answers to treatment outcomes. Phase III means that many patients have experienced this drug and more is known about safety. Phase II means the drug has only been in a few humans, so less is known about safety. I suggest only participating in a Phase III trial if you aren’t comfortable with the unknown.

I wish you the best and suggest taking it one day at a time.

on the farm

on the farm

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Hepatitis C Treatment: The Big Sleep In The Rabbit Hole

Going through treatment of Hepatitis C, I suspended reality. 

My world became a rabbit hole.  More like a depressed Bugs Bunny than Alice.

The first on-screen appearance of Bugs Bunny, ...
The first on-screen appearance of Bugs Bunny, from an unrestored version of the cartoon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Only my husband Spanky, the psychiatrist and the research nurse could check on me.  But frequently I pulled the hole in on myself and stayed there.  It was kinda weird.   I felt safe from others but not my crazy mind.  I couldn’t close the rabbit hole fast enough to keep out my mind.   Sometimes I felt like I was watching the world through a window but  I couldn’t remember what happened that day.

Memories of coming out of a bar when the sun is still bright, eewww.

Twice stolen from Edvard Munch

Twice stolen from Edvard Munch

malavula.blogspot.com

I used to wonder if other study patients felt the same as me.  I would watch in the waiting room.  But they weren’t giving up their secrets.  Each traveling with his own rabbit hole.

Rabbit Hole Urban Dictionary
Alice in…Metaphor for the conceptual path which is thought to lead to the true nature of reality. Infinitesimally deep and complex, venturing too far down is probably not that great of an idea.
An allusion to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. To go “down the rabbithole” is to enter a period of chaos or confusion.
Or to take acid, Deb
…….
Then the study ended.  As drugs began to leach out of my body, I felt like I took a year-long nap.  Only I wasn’t asleep.  I was waking from a little tiny world.  Like a newly released guest of the penal system or someone from the space station, I heard about stuff while in my pseudo-sleep but hadn’t really grasped it.  Politics, friends, life skills, I had to catch up on it all. This is more difficult than you think, trying to get past all the celebrity crap. Who “gets” celebrity crap?  I don’t but somebody must or it wouldn’t be ubiquitous.
Sometimes I want to crawl back down the rabbit hole.  During those times, I hang out in our guest room, my home during treatment.  It’s comforting in a psychiatric kind of way.  It took months to feel free of that need,  about four half-lives*  When I can’t sleep I still go in there.  It is normal to lie awake all night in the rabbit hole.
 I’m thinking of painting the rabbit hole room lavender (I don’t like lavender) or getting a new bed (I like the existing bed).  Dismantle the tangible rabbit hole.
*A half-life, t1/2, is the time it takes to remove 1/2 of a drug from your system.  To approach 100% drug removal takes about six half-lives.

A biological half-life or elimination half-life is the time it takes for a substance (drug, radioactive nuclide, or other) to lose one-half of its pharmacologic, physiologic, or radiological activity. In a medical context, the half-life may also describe the time that it takes for the concentration in blood plasma of a substance to reach one-half of its steady-state value (the “plasma half-life”)

Hepatitis C Research: What’s a Phase and How Can We Get through it Faster?

Hepatitis C:  Current Research Drugs

Picture your liver at the center of the Milky Way. Now, the swirling stars are treatments, some closer than others.  Drug studies are in orbit like this.  Work with me here.

Your Liver = Center of your universe.

Illustration of the Milky Way by Dianna Marquee

Illustration of the Milky Way by Dianna Marquee

Filed = Closest stars, drugs waiting on FDA approval.  The red tape wheels grind on.

Phase III = Next out, drugs being tested large-scale for safety and efficacy.  Will the virus die before you do?

Phase II = Further away from your liver, drugs shown not to kill  people when tested on a small group of sick patients. Cohort is the word.  This was me during round two of treatment.  Kind of risky here.

Phase I =  Compounds (drugs) that don’t kill healthy people crazy enough to volunteer (broke students and new parolees)

Preclinical =A blur of solar dust = test tube, computer chemical structuring, animal studies. Yep, animal testing.

When I was first diagnosed in 1991 with Hepatitis C, there was only one binary star, Interferon and Ribavirin.  Finally in 2011  came Telaprevir  and Boceprevir. That’s a long time between hits, 20 years.  Now the Hep C universe is almost getting crowded, but not yet.  The issue is safety and timelines.  The barbaric days of Interferon could be phased out (pun intended).

Phases of  Current Drug Research:  Thanks go to Dr Paul Kwo for this slide

Paul Y. Kwo, MD, is Associate Professor of Medicine and Medical Director of Liver Transplantation in the Gastroenterology/Hepatology Division of Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis

Paul Y. Kwo, MD, is Associate Professor of Medicine and Medical Director of Liver Transplantation in the Gastroenterology/Hepatology Division of Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis

So, this slide represents current studies, phases  and the mechanism of action (MOA).  Remember that we want at least two drugs with different MOAs in our bodies to avoid virus mutation and resistance.  The good news is that there are multiple drug candidates in each category.  For further information on any study, go to www.clinicaltrials.gov and enter the drug/compound name.  This site will also tell you if the study is enrolling patients and if there is a location close to you.  This website rocks.  Thank you federal government.

The US research system is business-based, where competition for the patent drives the process.  I’m not completely opposed to this system.  But it does have drawbacks.

Remember when AIDS researchers were competing to isolate the culprit?  France and the US,  it was crazy.  The two groups still argue about whom was first with what.

The HBO movie And The Band Played On documents government and cultural barriers to a disease connected with a cohort that isn’t mainstream, i.e. HIV and homosexual men.  I’m glad the barriers came down a bit faster with Hep C.  Initially the cohort was alcoholics and drug addicts.  But then the target audience became baby boomers.  This was 1. More acceptable and 2. A bigger pool of patients and potential profit.

Obviously the slide above is the star of this blog.    Drug companies race to be first with a new drug(s).  So why am I speaking of other things?  Because I think the days of working in a research vacuum are limited.  American drug companies say this is bad.  They claim without financial incentive, research will dry up.

But, wouldn’t it be great if companies worked together and combined research efforts?  I know, that is a big but.  I like big buts…There are novel initiatives include partnering between governmental organizations and industry. The world’s largest such initiative is the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), and examples of major national initiatives are Top Institute Pharma in the Netherlands and Biopeople in Denmark.  In the USA it could be the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  We used to joke that NIH meant “Not Investigated Here”  meaning that the USA insists on its own research.  Only science types would joke about such topics. No wonder we have a reputation.

Paul Y. Kwo, MD, is Associate Professor of Medicine

Paul Y. Kwo, MD, is Associate Professor of Medicine

Now picture these studies sharing data.  Think of all the time and patient suffering saved by quickly identifying drug-drug and drug-disease interactions.  Think about how the winners would rise to the top.  I don’t care about the political/social overtones.  I am just thinking about patients. This is already happening with cancer research.

I have worked on this blog for a week and still can’t get it right.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virus

http://www.chronicliverdisease.org/COEE/index.cfm?id=PKwo

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_development

http://voices.yahoo.com/a-summary-film-band-played-on-127287.html

Things Not To Say to Someone Who Just Completed Hepatitis C Treatment

Now What?

Now What?

  • You were in treatment?  I just thought you were aging badly.
  • Now make sure you don’t get it again (my personal favorite)
  • How do you celebrate without alcohol?
  • How can you be sure you are cured? I’ve heard it comes back.
  • I heard of a guy that went two years then his liver blew up.
  • Some guy finished treatment then killed himself.
  • Can you talk to my husband?  He won’t quit drinking and drugging.
  • I saw a website that says St John’s Wort works better.
  • Want to volunteer at the hospice?
  • Too bad you have to give up your handicap placard.
  • Glad you finished.  Maybe you won’t be such a moody A Hole now.
  • You should have waited for newer treatments.  They are better.
  • Now, shut up about your symptoms.
  • Good, now get off your butt and do something.
  • Now what?

And Now For Something Completely Predictable: Law Suits with Hepatitis C Treatments

Hepatitis C Research:  This  trend to law suits was completely predictable, but right?  I think not.  In the words of a friend of mine “Fuck me, what do I know?”

Artwork:  Lapland Hand

I don’t know the answers, so I raise my hand to ask

Hepatitis C patients want to sue drug companies post  research treatment, claiming permanent emotional and mental damage. How do they know which came first? 

  Here is one site I found while looking into the topic, www.lloydwright.org    At the end you will note an absence of comment from me. I don’t know why I am lacking compassion. Am I a patient?  Am I a scientist?   

http://lloydwright.org/messages/content/i-was-better-hepatitis-c  I was better off with the Hepatitis C!

Name:

Mariel

Your Question for Lloyd

I was wondering how I get involved in the class action against interferon. While taking the drug, I dropped down to 79 lbs, and now have Gastroparesis and Crohns disease as a result.

The interferon paralyzed my stomach, and I am considering having a pacemaker put in because I am constantly vomitting and nausea us, and dropping dramatic weight. I am on disability because of this, and its caused me immense mental distress, as well as my daughters.

Please tell me what I need to do to get involved. I can not work and there for am unable to provide the life I wanted. I was better off with the hepatitis C! 🙂

I have just finished taking Interferon and Ribavirin for Hep C

I have just finished taking Interferon and Ribavirin for Hep C. I took it for 6 months and was cured of HEP C; however, no my liver and kidneys are suffering. Two months ago I had a perfect liver besides some fat. Now, I have Cirrhosis spots and the dr. said it has acquired 2 YEARS of damage in 30 days.
I was wondering if there was any lawsuit I could join or any other programs? I now am facing cancer most likely and have 4 children and nothing to leave behind to help them.
Thanks you. -Jim Thomas

Long Term Sides that ruined my life after hep c treatment

i WANT TO SUE FOR PAIN AND SUFFERING!!!!!

Can you help direct me?  “They never told me that I would be disabled permenantly when I treated in 2006,  My nervous system is a mess.  I have severe panic attacks, depression, eyesight is really bad, still ache all over, agoraphobia.   This has brought me down from being a productive & employed ‘to being below poverty level (cause I’m unstable i cannot hold a job for long) and I have been on the brinks of homelessness for the passed months;  I’ve been suffering since 2006.

This treatment ruined my life!

Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2011 3:55 PM To: LloydWright Subject: [Contact Lloyd] Severe disability resulting from Interferon + Ribavirin treatment in 2003. I was never warned and I’m seeking legal advice and/or recourse
_Smith sent a message using the contact form at  http://lloydwright.org/messages/contact.
post Interferon nightmare

In September 2008 I started Peg Interferon. I stopped after 6 months. Here is my story:
My name is Nick I am a now 30 year old father of an almost three year old little girl named _____. ( D.O.B.: ) and husband of a 32 year old wife named _____  (D.O.B.: ) I was 27 going on 28 years old when I found out I got the Hep. C Virus. About 6 months to a year before that I was giving plasma every 6 months until finally the next time I went in to give it I found out that recently I caught the Hep. C virus.

phase II clinical trial SOC and Boceprevir – Join the Suit

Lloyd Wright, An email friend referred your site. I am currently in a federal law suit for permanent injury sustained from my participation in a clinical trial of PegIntron / Rebetol / Boceprevir. I suffer multi-system sarcoidosis with occular, renal and pulmonary involvement caused by PegIntron and Rebetol treatment.

Lee Prokaska The Hamilton Spectator Canada (Jun 3, 2010)

It is virtually impossible to put an accurate and true dollar value on a loved one lost.

But when a mechanism is set up to try to do that, when responsibility is accepted by government, it is unacceptable for families to lose yet again by failing to receive the full compensation they deserve.

Group to sue over hepatitis C

People with hepatitis C have formed a group to sue the government and drugmakers for damages over their infection during mass vaccinations even though they have no clear evidence, such as medical charts.

  www.heplikeme.com

Hepatitis C: Been A Long Time Leaving But’ll Be A Long Time Gone

My dad was a Waylon Jennings man.  I think he liked the big FU that Waylon projected.  I paraphrase Waylon.  “I been a long time leaving Hepatitis C, but I’ll be a long time gone”

So after three years of treatment-plus the maybe five years of falling apart, I get a voice mail that says “Hi Deb, this is the message you’ve been waiting for.  Still no detectable virus, so you’re cured.  See you in 24 weeks”.  Glad I go back in 24 weeks, so I can ween myself off of the Texas Medical Center.  This follow-up lasts a couple of years.  Now what?  I don’t care.  Today I am neither a patient nor a scientist.

Yep, I’m doing this in Kerala

I can do anything I want.  I will start with a trip to India this week. No shit.  BTW I tried to say this without the word shit, but it didn’t sound like me.  Waylon and India.  That’s all I got to say for now.

http://www.biography.com/people/waylon-jennings-9354063

www.natmystic.com