Doctor Dials Internet and Saves Asthma Girl; FINANCIAL MAIL

Article excerpt

Byline: DOROTHY WALKER

A DOCTOR used the Internet in a desperate attempt to save a young patient's life - and succeeded.

Dr Stuart Rusnak's patient, 20-year-old Jennifer Cox, was suffering from seizures and severe asthma.

The drugs that the doctor used to ease Jennifer's breathing brought on the seizures, and treatment to control them in turn made her asthma lethal.

In a final effort to find help somewhere in the world, Dr Rusnak downloaded a copy of WebCompass, a new type of software that uses all the Web search engines together, and set out to seek help from his home PC in Honolulu, Hawaii.

He says: `Jennifer was dying and I had run out of other ideas. I started at 5.30pm on a Sunday, typed in `seizure disorder' and had 77 hits.

`I read all the references until I reached the University of Washington, where I found a list of all European drugs available for complex seizure disorder. There, I found a drug we didn't know about - Sabril, made by a subsidiary of Hoechst.

`When I finally closed down my computer at midnight on that Sunday I had compiled research from all around Europe and had found out everything I could about the drug.'

Next morning Dr Rusnak rang the manufacturer, to find that Sabril was not on sale in the US, even for emergency use. He had to use his credit card to buy it from an offshore pharmacy in the Bahamas.

He says: `Only 48 hours after I came off-line Jennifer had her first dose of the drug, and within a month we were able to take her off her other medication. …