Hepatitis C: Beware the Jabberwok

 Hepatitis C:  Beware the Jabberwok

Through the Looking Glass

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!’

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought 
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood a while in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One two! One two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.    

  

If you listen to a scientific lecture for an hour, you can begin to believe nonsense is science, but don’t.

I believe that the average Hep C patient (whoever that is) has a triple cross to bear.     1. You feel like shit on a stick  2. You have to go to unimaginable places like a liver biopsy suite and 3.You are thrown into a parallel universe where the language is almost understandable, but not really. It’s Jabberwok.

I was listening to a lecture yesterday on Hepatitis A through E. I was reading the slides as Dr. Nice Lady from pharmacy was talking.  And then I heard it:Hepatitis B and C are predominately associated with percutaneous and permucosal transmission”.  Translation:  Hep B and C can be caught through blood and through sexual contact.  Permucosal  is medical lingo for via mucous membranes.  The problem was that fifty pharmacists were about to  leave the lecture and tell their worlds that you can catch Hep C through sex.  I couldn’t let that happen so I said through the chat box “Hep C can be caught through sexual contact?  Is this new information?”  She said no, you are right to point that out, it is not transmitted that way.  So why did she say it?  The slide looked better that way.

In reality, the way one gets Hep C through sex is through rough sex and I mean rough.  Percutaneous means blood transmission.  I will pause here so that you create your own image.

Now I was willing to let it slide when she said that Hepatitis A and E were transmitted through the oral-fecal route.  In reality it is fecal-oral route.  Think about that for a moment.  But my point is that there is a lot of slightly non-true information out there.  What can you do about it?  Ask questions wherever you go.  Even if you have asked the same question before.  Remember how your doctor’s office always has that sign in English and Spanish that says Questions/Pregunta?  They really want you to ask.

Boy, did spellcheck light up Jabberwok!

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

Lewis Carroll Through the Looking Glass

Viral Hepatitis:  Keeping Your Patients Safe www.freece.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

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

Adverse Events in Treatment: If it’s you, it’s minor. If it’s me, it’s major

Adverse Events and Reactions

There are conflicting definitions here because there are conflicting definitions in science and medicine.

A Side Effect (SE) is when a drug does something besides what you are treating. Rogaine was initially a drug for hypertension that had a side effect (SE) causing hair to grow on your head.  It was predictable.  Talk about a marketing turn-around. That  pharmaceutical guy is probably still hailed as a hero. What? Me judge? 

Minoxidil is an antihypertensive vasodilator medication which also slows or stops hair loss and promotes hair regrowth.

Ooh ah, chemistry structure. 

Why is it that I can understand how this crosses the epidermis but I cannot understand how house plans will look as a house?

An Adverse Drug Event (ADE) is something that is dose independent and causes harm.  Wow, the definitions are wide open.

I went to the Veterans Administration (VA) website:   No clear definition  from their panel of experts

I went to the NIH:  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Blah Blah Blah ”  WTF? I stopped there.  These people had no intention of helping me get  a clear definition. 

 Wikipedia, that bastion of scientific rigor says:

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

An adverse drug reaction (abbreviated ADR) is an expression that describes harm associated with the use of given medications at a normal dosage during normal use. ADRs may occur following a single dose or prolonged administration of a drug or result from the combination of two or more drugs. The meaning of this expression differs from the meaning of “side effect“, as this last expression might also imply that the effects can be beneficial.[1] The study of ADRs is the concern of the field known as pharmacovigilanceNo shit.  Just what we need, splitting more ill-defined hairs.

An adverse drug event (abbreviated ADE) refers to any injury caused by the drug (at normal dosage and/or due to overdose) and any harm associated with the use of drug (e.g. discontinuation of drug therapy).[2] ADRs are a special type of ADEs.

  • Type A: Augmented pharmacologic effects – dose dependent and predictable
    • Intolerance: Severe decrease in red blood cells (RBCs) with ribavirin.  Decrease dose of ribavirin.
    • Side Effects. Immobilizing depression .  Anti-depression agents can help.

     My question to you and your doctor is “Why not start antidepressants in advance of hepatitis C therapy?”  I did the 2nd time around and I wasn’t on another planet every day.  Only sometimes.

  • Type B: Bizarre effects (or idiosyncratic) – dose independent and unpredictable.

Congratulations!  You are 1 in 100,000 whose teeth fall out.  It is a rare occurrence, 1 in 100,000.  But if you are the one, it is 1 in 1 (100%).  I apologize, I do not remember where I got this mask rendering.  Please don’t sue me.

  • Type C: Chronic effects: You keep taking that boy ,and you will go blind.
  • Type D: Delayed effects:  We didn’t realize that three weeks into treatment your butt hole would fail to shut.  Awkward!
  • Type E: End-of-treatment effects: Seriously, , Ribavirin stays in red blood cells (RBCs) for 6 months after treatment causing teratogenic effects (birth defects)  in non mammals.  Even if only the sire is taking the drug.
  • Type F: Failure of therapy The operation was a success but the patient died.
  • Type G: Genetic reactions OOPs,  you went deaf because you don’t have the enzyme to pee out that drug. Are your parents from Lapland?

My two favorite terms are Bizarre and Idiosyncratic. Bizarre we recognize. Sort of. Idiosyncratic means we have no effing clue. Idiosyncratic is more palatable than ” no effing clue”. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA to their friends) says An ADR should not be labeled as ‘certain’ unless the ADR abates with a challenge-dechallenge-rechallenge protocol (stopping and starting the drug). Now, I don’t know about you, but I am probably not going to volunteer to restart a drug that I had to stop because of  a bad experience.  At least not any more.

Both Interferon and Ribavirin warn about severe depression, suicide, homicide, and  crazy thinking.  I got the D and CT.  These are predictable SEs

  From the Interferon (Pegasys) package Insert

http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2002/pegihof101602LB.htm#cont

BOXED WARNING 

 Alpha interferons, including PEGASYS, may cause or aggravate fatal or life-threatening neuropsychiatric, autoimmune, ischemic, and infectious disorders. Patients should be monitored closely with periodic clinical and laboratory evaluations. Patients with persistently severe or worsening signs or symptoms of these conditions should be withdrawn from therapy. In many, but not all cases, these disorders resolve after stopping PEGASYS therapy (see WARNINGS and ADVERSE REACTIONS).

Neuropsychiatric

Life-threatening neuropsychiatric reactions may manifest in patients receiving therapy with PEGASYS. Depression, suicidal ideation, and suicidal attempt may occur in patients with and without previous psychiatric illness.

PEGASYS should be used with extreme caution in patients who report a history of depression. Neuropsychiatric adverse events observed with alpha interferon treatment include relapse of drug addiction, drug overdose, aggressive behavior, psychoses, hallucinations, bipolar disorders and mania.   Almost all patients with hepatitis c have a history of depression.  It goes with the territory. 

ADVERSE REACTIONS

Nearly all patients in clinical trials experienced one or more adverse events. The most commonly reported adverse reactions were psychiatric reactions, including depression, irritability, anxiety, and flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, pyrexia, myalgia, headache and rigors. The most common reason for dose modification or withdrawal from studies was hematologic abnormalities.

Ribavirin  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribavirin  It is more difficult to get a straight package insert regarding Ribavirin as there are multiple manufacturers.  Of note, Ribavirin has shown teratogenicity in non mammals.  You will have to sign many forms to document that you grasp this.

 I am not the suicide type.  As a kid, I stumbled on my mom trying to kill herself.  Pills, cut wrists, head in gaseous oven.  I would call an ambulance then my Aunt Sudie.   Aunt Sudie kept  my brother and me during hospital stays.  I packed our school stuff in a  cardboard box and waited for her.  We stayed there till Mom promised the psych doctors that she’s better and wouldn’t try suicide again.  Back then you would whisper “She’s had a nervous breakdown”.  You don’t hear that anymore.

It was weird at Aunt Sudie’s house.  It was quiet , clean and ran on a schedule.  They had ice cream all the time  and a freezer that kept it frozen.   My cousins  Gary and Randy would have to room together so my brother  and I could have a bed.  I put every effort into making sure Tim and I were no trouble. Little Orphan Annie has come to our house to stay.  To wash the cups and saucers up and brush the crumbs away…  J W Riley.  This thinking came from me.  Aunt Sudie didn’t expect me to work for my keep.

 When my period  started, Randy’s dog , Lady, shredded my Kotex all over the dining room floor and they saw it.   I died quietly.  At home no one shredded my Kotex stuff.   No matter how bad it is at home, there are some plusses.

Back then there was no Valium or Prozac.  Only Thorazine.  Which Mom used to for suicide attempts. See a pattern?    Mom later found an alternative.  She began drinking with my dad.  I became grown up on duty (GOD) when I was about eleven.

Liver and Onions

My favorite joke:Two cannibals are eating a clown.  One pauses and says “Does this taste funny to you?”     I think this is hilarious!

You know when your liver is being treated, it seems almost cannibalistic to cook  and eat someone else’s liver.  Fellow livers and all.

When I was in treatment for Hep C, My Red Blood Cells (RBCs) and hemoglobin  (HgB) were low.  My friend Trish came from the bay area armed with her Cooking for Cancer Patients cookbook.   She wanted me to eat  chicken liver.  She promised that it wouldn’t taste like liver.   She covered it in curry and stuff.  The flavor wasn’t as horrible as regular liver, but the look and texture felt like a soap dried loofah in my mouth.   Deb, don’t gag.  Eat one and push the others around your plate.  Tried and true techniques.  I did eat three.   I think she left the recipe. The curry rice was good.

When I was a kid, we only had one ghost story.  The whole story was built around “I’m on the first step, I want your liver.  I’m on the second step, I want your liver.  I’m on the third step”…Then you grab kids and scare the shit out of them.  It worked on me every time.  This Halloween classic went along with the dark spook house where you always touched beef liver and screamed.  Those days of course I went home to a big skillet of cows liver, onions and gravy and ate it up.  Or on Sunday, Mom fried a chicken.  The liver and gizzard finished before the rest of the chicken.    I hung around like a little bird.  Mom blew on them and popped them in my mouth.  That was before I had anatomy and physiology.  I still don’t want to think about a gizzard’s function.

Anyway, as soon as I stopped taking Ribavirin, my blood cells began reproducing.  I feel more energy  every day and it is awesome. I will pass on the liver.