FDA Urges Stronger Warnings For TNF Blockers

Don’t mean to scare anyone, but we all know the TNF inhibitors do come with some potentially worrisome side effects. Just wanted to put the news out there so you are informed.

From the NY Times:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration ordered stronger warnings Thursday on four medications widely used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other serious illnesses, saying they can raise the risk of possibly fatal fungal infections.

The drugs — Enbrel, Remicade , Humira and Cimzia — work by suppressing the immune system to keep it from attacking the body. For patients with rheumatoid arthritis, the treatment provides relief from swollen and painful joints, but it is “a double-edged sword,” said Dr. Jeffrey Siegel of the drug agency. That is because the drugs also lower the body’s defenses to infections.

Dr. Siegel, who heads the office that oversees arthritis drugs, said the agency became concerned after discovering that doctors seemed to be overlooking a kind of fungal infection called histoplasmosis . Of 240 cases reported to the agency in which patients taking one of the four drugs developed this infection, 45 died. That is about 20 percent.

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Six-Part Podcast Series On Managing Crohn’s

Drug company Abbott (known for making HUMIRA) has created a six-part podcast series that focuses on issues that people with Crohn’s disease might be faced with. Normally, I’d be cautions to recommend anything that a drug company skins as helpful information, but this seems like an honest effort on their part. If the first episode is any indication, the main goal of these podcasts is to deliver relevant information about disease management.

Here’s what the site says the Crohn’s Casts will offer:

The podcast series shares insights and tips from health professionals regarding diet and nutrition, the emotional impact of the disease and its effect on relationships. Each Crohn’s Cast also includes a first-hand account from a person living with Crohn’s disease.

The first podcast is about 10 minutes long. You can listen to it directly on the site or download it as an mp3. Two episodes are currently available: “Food–Friend or Foe” and “Enjoying Eating.” Other topics are listed below with the dates that the will become available:

  • August 20, 2008 – Understanding the Mind-Gut Connection
  • September 3, 2008 – Coping with Crohn’s
  • September 17, 2008 – Dating Dilemmas
  • October 1, 2008 – For Better or For Worse

Crohn’s Casts [via Fayette Fitness & Health]

How To Keep Arthritis Meds Cold While Traveling

Frio Travel WalletThe FRIO Travel Wallet is a fantastic device for transporting your Enbrel, Humira, or [insert medication that must be refrigerated here] while traveling. These nifty wallets are marketed to diabetes patients, but will work for us arthritic folks as well. All you have to do is immerse the wallet in cold water for 5-15 minutes. This simple act will turn the pouch into a lean, mean, cooling machine! Your meds will stay cold for 45 hours, without any need for refrigeration or ice. The product can be used over and over. Even better, once you put the wallet in its outer cover, you can pop it in your bag without any worry of causing dampness. Brilliant!

Special thanks to Jeanine, an arthritis warrior from the Young Adult support group that I attend in the Los Angeles area, for bringing this cool tool to my attention!

Read more about how the FRIO Wallet works here.
Purchase a FRIO wallet here.

UK Is Not NICE To Arthritis Patients

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) had decided that NHS (National Health Service) arthritis patients in England and Wales can only try one anti-TNF drug. Yes, you read that correctly. Doctors will only get one shot at prescribing the “right” anti-TNF therapy for each of their patients. No pressure there.

Say that one drug is Remicade. If Remicade does not work for a patient or loses its effectiveness over time, people in the UK will not be allowed to try a second TNF inhibitor therapy, such as Enbrel or Humira. Knowing how Enbrel and other anti-TNFs have been life-changing drugs for me and my arthritis friends, this information in this news article really disturbs me.

NICE said that giving patients two, or even three, anti-TNFs is not cost-effective and that doctors should offer patients the next drug in line – rituximab – which costs about £3,000 less per year than the cheapest anti-TNF.

However, around a quarter of patients do not gain any benefit from rituximab.

WTF?

Charities and patient groups are planning to appeal the ruling before the draft guidance is approved in the fall.

I have a lot of complaints about the U.S. health care system, but this definitely makes me appreciate our system a lot more. What do you think of this ruling?

Plan to Curb Arthritis Drug Use