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”)

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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: Does “No Detectable Virus” Equal Cure Or Is It Smoke?

Am I cured or is it just smoke?

Hepatitis C cure?

 If my hepatitis C virus test shows non-detectable virus 6 months after the end of treatment, am I negative?  Will I  stay negative?  Am I cured?  In the recent past only “non-detectable virus” was declared. Now doctors are adding “cure” to the jargon.  This is with the addition of Incivek and Victrelis, and depending on the discussion.  No two clinical trials are alike and so Hepatitis C researchers use (they say utilize) sustained viralogical response (SVR) to compare outcomes.  Most trial design is by the company developing the drug.  One goal is to ask the study questions just right to get scientific and marketable answers.  “GodZillapravir had a non-detectable  SVR at weeks 12 and 24 in 85% of patients including those with mild to moderate cirrhosis”. “KingKongViracide cleared Hepatitis C virus in 94% of patients at 24 weeks including children 12 to 18 years of age”.  Which is the better drug?  You can’t tell by the claims because two different patient populations and time lines .  But they have  SVR in common.  That is why researchers use SVR.  BTW I made up the examples.  Now don’t get down on industry just yet.  Academics are accountable to department heads and medical journals.  That can be as powerful as a stockholder.

Industry is different: Stock holders in towers

When it comes to patients , the word “Cure” has emerged because research shows that if you have no detectable virus after six months, the chances of Hep C returning is about 1-2%.  And the argument is that it was never cleared, just so low that it was undetectable.

So with Hepatitis what does this mean?

Successful treatment for Hepatitis C hasn’t been available for long, so doctors are just starting to understand the long-term outcomes.  Do cancer survivors say cured?  I think they say  cancer-free for 2 years, 5 years, etc.  Am I a Hepatitis C survivor or am I cured?  Is it still a pre-existing condition?   A research site, not insurance, paid for my treatments.  But my medical records say Hepatitis C.

So at 24 weeks can I tell the insurance company that I no longer have Hepatitis C?  I can’t find the answer to that question without talking to them directly. I will wait until 2014 (I think that is the year) when they cannot cancel me for pre-existing conditions.  Insurance politics are so confusing, I am not clear if that stipulation is on the potential chopping block.  In speaking with my mental  Dr, I realize that I do not have confidence in my treatment and I am waiting for it to come back.  I am at 4 1/2 months post treatment.   I have been Hep C positive for so long, I don’t know how to have a future in which chronic debilitating illness isn’t a key player.  What is the world like with only mild hypertension and chronic but manageable depression?

Below is a good article for defining end-of-treatment terms, although it is a bit dated.  Newer drugs are not addressed but the terms are the same.

 Hepatitis C: What Is a Sustained Virologic Response or “SVR”? (From Charles  Daniel, former About.com GuideSVR) 

SVR is the closest you’ll get to “a cure” for hepatitis C.
 Sustained virologic response, or SVR, is the goal of hepatitis C treatment.  Conventional treatment (a combination of interferon and ribavirin) doesn’t  necessarily eliminate the hepatitis C virus from your liver. It can, however,  suppress the virus to undetectable levels for an extended period of time. In clinical language, this is called a “sustained virologic response,” or sustained  response. It means that during the six months after you complete treatment,  there is no detectable hepatitis C virus in your blood.                                         SVR is a good thing.
Studies have shown that with a six-month SVR (which means no detectable virus in your blood for six months after finishing treatment), relapse occurred in only 1-2% of patients. So, for every 100 people who finished treatment and attained SVR, the virus will return in only 2 of them. However, for these people, the
virus never really left. The medicine was able to eliminate most of the virus (so much that medical tests couldn’t detect it), but after treatment ended, for whatever reason the virus was able to continue replicating itself.

Early SVR is beneficial
Since the liver has incredible regenerative ability, achieving SVR
 as quickly as possible is important. This is important because some liver damage can be reversed if the cause of the damage is removed. After SVR is reached and depending on the degree of damage from the virus, the risk of hepatocellular cancer is reduced and about 25% of people see an improvement in fibrosis.

SVR compares one treatment to another. For those in treatment, SVR is the goal. However, for physicians and scientists researching new hepatitis treatments, SVR is also used to evaluate new medicines and compare them with proven therapies.
 For example, depending on the genotype, treatment with interferon alone usually achieves SVR in 15% of the patients. When interferon is combined with ribavirin in the same genotype, SVR is increased to 70% in some people.

Jana L. Lee, R.N., CCRC Clinical Research Nurse St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital Advanced Liver Therapies, my practical answer source and demon fighter.

http://www.hepcadvocacy.org/factsheets/HepatitisC.pdf

http://hepatitis.about.com/bio/Charles-Daniel-37713.htm

We are in the Hepatitis C Virus Killing Business and Business is Good.

This fellow’s photo is here to encourage you to stick around to read the stuff below.

My Mamaw took Bufferin for  her “sick headaches”.  In looking back I realize she had migraines.  One day after coming out of the darkened bedroom, fixing her bun, she said  “How do it know where to go?”.  This is a woman who gave birth to 11 kids at home.

Mamaw Ora Mae Morris. I loved that woman. She smelled like biscuits.

The main reason to endure treatment is to kill the virus and get on with life.  With the addition of Bocephevir (Victrelis)  and Telaprevir (Incivek) , chances of clearing the virus have improved.  But, even if this isn’t achieved, there are other benefits:

  •  slow down the disease,
  • reduce or reverse liver damage
  • , reduce risk of liver cirrhosis/cancer,
  •  reduce need for liver transplant.

So how do we know the Hep C drugs are killing the virus?  “How do it know where to go?”

 Your blood is checked at the milestones listed above.  If the drugs are working, the viral load will go down.

Resist the urge to glaze over the terms below. Insist that someone on the treatment team explain the lingo to you. If that person can’t explain it, they shouldn’t be there. This is the language of your doctor when talking of your Hep C treatment results.

VL = Baseline Viral Load:  Amount of virus in your blood before treatment

RVR = Rapid Viral Response: The faster the response the better the chance of getting to cure.  This is assessed at 4 weeks

EVR = Early Viral Response: How you respond after 12 weeks of treatment.

SVR = Sustained Viral Response: No detectable virus 6 months after completion of treatment.  This is my next hurdle.

Resources:
  • Jana Lee, RN, CCRN, Advanced Liver Therapies, Houston

I Pooped Today, Things to Track with Hepatitis C Treatment

“I Pooped Today”  Important information to track while on Hepatitis C treatment

If you choose to participate in a drug study while being treated for Hepatitis C, be prepared to keep a diary.  Most of these examples are from round one.  You know what they say about experience:  There are those that got it and those that are going to get it.  I’ve been both.  During round two, I knew a lot of holes were out there and walked around them.  Or paved them in advanced.  I did find new ones.

Dear Diary:

How many bowel movements have you had since your last visit? What color is it? I think this is a test to see if I am fixated on poop.  BTW Your family doesn’t want to know about your poop even if they pretend to.  Most people on treatment have frequent stools but not me.  See, don’t you wish you didn’t know?

Get comfortable discussing your bodily functions with everyone in a white coat. You haven’t had dignity for a while. How dark is your urine? I don’t know, it’s diluted when it hits the toilet bowl. Does it smell? I really want to make a nose joke here.

How’s your eating? Food smells and tastes like pennies and my stomach burns. Have you tried not eating spicy foods? I am only eating buttered noodles and Little Debbie Oatmeal Cakes.  Oh.

Brain fog “Loss of ability to concentrate. Memory loss”   How has your memory been?Huh?    Non-participative.  Try to write everything down in one place.  I can’t seem to find my notebook, so I start another. Kinda makes it worse.Try to hold a job let alone a career with that side effect.

Did I take my medicine? When did I take my medicine? Did I take it in lemon duck? Did I take it with a eunuch?  Did I take it on my death-bed?  Did it make me see a dragon’s head?  Write it all down, you won’t remember.  (ref Brain Fog)

Try to get as much sleep as you can. Brilliant. Now I lay me down to sleep, to lie awake with Lil Bo Peep.  Okay, a bit too much rhyming.  But today my brain wants to rhyme. 

Avoid undue excitement. You mean like my brain running The Fifth Element  Flossing Paradise 24/7? We can prescribe sleep medications. Why didn’t you tell me that 6 months ago?

We recommend aerobic exercise 15-20 minutes/day. Are you shitting me? Do I keep track if you are shitting me?

How many times did you have a blinding H/A this week? How many not so blinding?  Let me see, I cry a couple of times a day.  Crying results in a blinding headache.  So I hold in the crying.  The result, “not blinding” headache.  I’m not sure if I am crying on the inside or outside.

Rashes and skin changes. Is that because of medications or just old spots?  What about the ones that are 3-D?

My skin itches. Take an antihistamine. I did. Take Benadryl 50 mg. Spit will fall out of my mouth if I have any secretions Can I see a dermatologist about this?  Sure but it will be weeks before we can get you in.  WTF is a dermatologist so busy doing?

How has your mental health been since your last visit? Can you draw a line on this form to show the change? I can’t give you any more instructions, even if you don’t understand this (silly) form.  The -Y axis is not long enough to document  the rate of my decline.

Do you think we should put you on antidepressants? I don’t know who I am much less what I need. Have you had suicidal or homicidal thoughts? I can’t remember. With or without headaches?

It is Tuesday, time for my weekly injection. Just when I was feeling up line dancing in a circle (props go Dos XX commercial). Where was your injection site last week? In my forehead with a silver bullet.

Because my Hemoglobin (HgB) is so low, I can’t walk  from the parking structure to my work appointments. Can I get a Handicap Placard? No one has ever asked for one before. So can I get one? Bring us the form. The Dr. will have to sign it.

License branch information booth: Do I have to stand in the long line with the masses? If I could stand that long I wouldn’t need a Handicap placard. Then bring someone to stand in line for you. Next