Magazine article FDA Consumer

One Patient's Experience with Interferon

Magazine article FDA Consumer

One Patient's Experience with Interferon

Article excerpt

One Patient's Experience with Interferon Mark Fow, Ph.D., a toxicologist with FDA's Division of Epidemiology and Surveillance--the group that monitors adverse drug reactions--is a victim of hairy cell leukemia who was in the study of interferon treatment of the cancer. In this inverview with Roger W. Miller, director of FDA's Communications Staff, he tells of the experience: Q. When did you first learn that you had leukemia? A. It was diagnosed a little over a year ago, in December 1985. Q. What kind of treatment did you get first, or did you go right into this interferon program? A. I got blood transfusions. I was starting to bruise and bleed spontaneously. My white [blood] cell count was so low I got any infection that came along. I had been diagnosed at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. They recognized it right away. It's a rare disease with an incidence of about one in one million persons--200 cases a year in the U.S. They told me there were two treatments--the experimental one with interferon and the traditional splenectomy--removal of the spleen. Interferon sounded better to me. So when I got back here [to the Washington, D.C., area] ... I got into the NCI [National Cancer Institute] trial. It's a multi-center program; there are a number of trials around the country. Q. Do You get any side effects? A. Yes, I did. About two weeks into the treatment, I got a further depression of bone marrow, where the red and white cells and the platelets for clotting are produced. It put me in the hospital with fever. I had to have antibiotics; I needed more red blood cell transfusions and platelets. Q. Didn't you want to quit? A. Yes, at that point, I said, "This is no fun." But after about 10 days into the fever it stopped, and I started getting better. I came out of it a week or so later, and when everything seemed to stabilize I started again on interferon. …

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