Bristol Myers /Gilead Science — Profits Ahead of Life
I have a good news, bad news story to report today. It is about a combination of life saving drugs that may never see the light of day because the two companies that make them can’t or won’t cooperate with one another. One woman, Margaret Dudley of San Antonio Texas is doing something about it. More about her, later.
This is about a combination of drugs from Bristol Myers Squib and Gilead Science that could be a cure for Hepatitis C which affects nearly 200 million people worldwide. It is a viral infection that can lead to liver failure and death. End-stage liver disease (cirrhosis) due to chronic hepatitis C has become the leading indication for liver transplantation in the United States.
First the good news, this really could be a cure. A combination of Gilead’s GS-7977 and Daclatasvir from Bristol Myers Squib shows great promise as a cure according to some limited studies. These drugs are pretty effective on their own but apparently when combined they could be a cure…yes cure. I know, cure is pretty strong language in the medical world but it is the medical world that is using the term.
Now the bad news. The two companies are not cooperating with one another, they can’t seem to agree on anything other than to disagree and in the meantime people are getting sicker and dying. This is the classic battle over which company will make the most money when the two drugs are combined.
Here’s an Excerpt-The Street
Gilead, Bristol Put Profits Ahead of Best Care for Hep C Patients
“The new Hep C therapy at issue here combines Bristol’s Daclatasvir with Gilead’s GS-7977. Each is a single pill administered once a day. The results from this new therapy are nothing short of spectacular – an early cure rate of 100% for genotype 1 patients and 91% of genotype 2/3 patients, according to data from a mid-stage study announced Thursday at the European Association for the Study of Liver Disease (EASL) meeting.
A 100% cure rate for genotype 1 patients! Obviously, results can’t get better than that.
You’d think there’d be a rush to move the combination regimen of Daclatasvir and GS-7977 into a larger, confirmatory phase III trial, but you’d be mistaken. Amazingly, this most promising new treatment for hepatitis C patients may actually be discontinued because Bristol and Gilead can’t work together.
Good luck understanding why Bristol and Gilead can’t come together to help Hep C patients. The companies can’t even agree on the fact that the two companies are not agreeing”.
This is an incredibly important story and one that needs wide circulation in hopes of forcing these two companies to cooperate for the sake of saving lives instead of who can provide the greatest return on investment. As mentioned earlier, Hep C affects about 200 million people worldwide.
Typically, to become infected with hepatitis C virus, the blood of an infected person enters the body of someone who is not infected. The most common way involves sharing needles or other equipment used to inject drugs. This kind of Hepatitis C infection is in the news now because an infected healthcare worker at a hospital in New Hampshire used needles on himself then left them for others to use. Thousands may have been infected as a result and that investigation continues.
It is also possible, but less likely to become infected with shared use of personal care items such as toothbrushes and razors. Infection is also possible through sexual contact. Hepatitis C is not spread by casual contact, kissing, coughing, sneezing, sharing utensils, or breastfeeding.
Other people with greater risk of infection include:
- People with tattoos or body piercing done with non-sterile equipment.
- People who received an organ transplant or blood transfusion before July 1992.
- People with clotting problems who took blood products prior to 1987.
- People receiving hemodialysis or who have a history of hemodialysis for kidney failure.
- People with HIV infection.
Since July 1992, all blood and organ donations in the U.S. are screened for the hepatitis C virus. According to the CDC, the number of hepatitis C infections declined by 90% from 1994 to 2006, partially as a result of this.
A diagnosis of hepatitis C infection doesn’t necessarily mean you need treatment. If you have only slight liver abnormalities, you may not need treatment, because your risk of future liver problems is very low. Your doctor may recommend follow-up blood tests to monitor for liver problems.
Hep C symptoms may include:
- Upset stomach and diminished appetite
- Joint and muscle pain
Also, patients may experience symptoms related to liver cirrhosis, such as:
- Jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Urine being a dark yellow color
- An increased tendency to bleed or bruise
Treatment of chronic hepatitis C varies depending on the individual. A person with chronic hepatitis C may not need or benefit from treatment. Some people may not be able to tolerate treatment because of side effects.
Currently, the FDA has approved the following treatments for hepatitis C:
- Pegylated interferon alfa-2a
- Pegylated interferon alfa-2b
- Standard interferon alfa
Common side effects of interferons include fatigue, muscle pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and depression, and changes to your blood cell counts. Side effects of ribavirin include anemia, skin rash, fatigue, and nose/sinus congestion so a new treatment with minimal side effects and greater effectiveness would be cheered wildly.
if your liver has been severely damaged, a liver transplant may be an option. During a liver transplant, the surgeon removes your damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy liver. Most transplanted livers come from deceased donors, though a small number come from living donors who donate a portion of their livers.
For people with hepatitis C infection, a liver transplant is not a cure. Treatment with antiviral medications usually continues after a liver transplant, since hepatitis C infection is likely to recur in the new liver.
Now to our hero 61 year old Margaret Dudley of San Antonio, Texas. Margaret thinks this situation is intolerable and she has launched a petition drive to encourage the two companies to work together to save lives.
Last fall, she was tested for hepatitis C she believes she contracted from some earlier tattoos. “I had no idea,” Dudley said. “I had no reason to think it would come back positive, but it did.”
Then she found out about Bristol Myers Squib and Gilead. “That’s basically what me and millions of others have been waiting for,” Dudley commented. We’re asking these companies put best patient health before profits.”
She has several thousand on her online petition so far and says public pressure may spark the pharmaceutical companies to keep going with clinical trials. Dudley’s goal is to gather 100,000 signatures by July 28, 2012, which is World Hepatitis Day. We encourage you to sign the petition. Just go to: http://tinyurl.com/cow2uwt We just can’t let profitability trump human life.
Some of the information in this blog was drawn from the following sources.
Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 2,500 member Organ Transplant Initiative and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs.
You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.
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