Just this week the FDA approved the first drug ever for treating a form of rapidly progressing myeloid leukemia, the second most common type of leukemia. Although the disease claims thousands of lives per year, the new pharmaceutical may aid in extending the lives of those with the illness.
In 1950, female biochemist and Nobel Prize winner Gertrude Elion discovered the first drug treatment for leukemia, according to the American Chemical Society. Dr. Elion developed the method responsible for curing 80% of children with leukemia to this day. Unfortunately, other leukemia treatment methods have not proven as effective in battling different forms of the horrible illness, and it continues to claim thousands of lives per year. However, the recently FDA-approved “Idhifa” offers hope for patients with the particularly aggressive acute myeloid leukemia. It is the first FDA-approved medication for treating patients with an IDH2 mutation, according to The Science Times.
The Mayo Clinic defines acute myeloid leukemia as a form of cancer affecting myeloid cells, a type of white blood cell found in bone marrow that develops into mature red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The disease mainly impacts individuals age forty-five and over, with twelve hundred to fifteen hundred patients diagnosed in the U.S. with the illness each year. Idhifa specifically aids people with the IDH2 gene mutation and has brought into remission nearly 20% of those suffering from this terrible disease during clinical trials. As reported by the FDA, Idhifa also decreased the need for red blood cell and platelet transfusions in acute myeloid leukemia patients with the IDH2 mutation, with only 34% of them requiring the transfusions after treatment.
Although Idhifa may extend the lives of those suffering from acute myeloid leukemia, the medication may lead to potentially dangerous side effects, including differentiation syndrome. This condition causes organ dysfunction, respiratory distress, and even fatality if left untreated. Moreover, the listed price of Idhifa treatment is $24,872, which may prove unaffordable for patients depending on their insurance plans. According to an article by Liberty Nation regarding cancer patients:
While investing in new cancer treatments is expensive, the high costs of cancer medications have led to twenty-five percent of patients choosing not to refill their prescriptions, and twenty percent of patients taking less than the prescribed dosage.
FDA approval of this drug represents an exemplary pharmacological advancement. Idhifa is expected to extend the lives of one in five patients – an incredible improvement. However, more work remains, and we’re a long way from that Holy Grail of medicine – the cure for cancer.
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