How a cancer drug has saved peo­ple from go­ing blind

Pakistan Observer - - TWIN CITIES - STAFF REPORTER

TEN years may not seem like a long time, but in my field, oph­thal­mol ogy, it has made the dif­fer­ence be­tween go­ing blind and still be­ing able to drive. Ten years ago, if you de­vel­oped wet age-re­lated mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion, a dis­ease that wreaks havoc on cen­tral vi­sion and lim­its the abil­ity to read, rec­og­nize faces and gen­er­ally see up close, there wasn’t much we could do. If you were lucky and had a spe­cific form of the dis­ease, the best we had to of­fer was a laser treat­ment called pho­to­dy­namic ther­apy, or PDT. Sadly, it didn’t re­ally do enough to help save vi­sion; most peo­ple’s sight still wors­ened.

Then some bril­liant minds ap­plied prin­ci­ples of cancer ther­apy to come up with a treat­ment that could ac­tu­ally im­prove vi­sion in peo­ple with wet AMD. They re­al­ized that the two dis­eases had an im­por­tant trait in com­mon — they both in­volved the growth of new blood ves­sels, whether in tu­mor cells or in the retina. They used a colon cancer drug that at­tacks these new blood ves­sels in tu­mors to tar­get the sim­i­lar ves­sels in wet AMD. I feel lucky to be prac­tic­ing to­day and to be able to of­fer my pa­tients such a game-chang­ing treat­ment.

Still, it’s not with­out difficulty. The treat­ment in­volves in­jec­tions of medicine into the eye, some­times on a monthly ba­sis. Lest you run scream­ing from your com­puter or smart­phone at the men­tion of eye in­jec­tions, it sounds quite a bit scarier than it ac­tu­ally is. Of course that’s easy for me to say, but when the al­ter­na­tive is go­ing blind, it changes your per­spec­tive.

Nonethe­less, these in­jec­tions are a huge bur­den on pa­tients and their fam­i­lies. Fam­ily mem­bers of­ten have to take time off work to drive their loved ones to their fre­quent ap­point­ments, or pa­tients may still be work­ing them­selves and have to leave work. Then there’s the cost is­sue. Avastin, the colon cancer drug, costs about $50 per dose when used “off la­bel” in the eye. The other two med­i­ca­tions, Lu­cen­tis and Eylea, which were de­vel­oped specif­i­cally for use in the eye, cost around $2,000 and $1,800, per dose, re­spec­tively.

Most oph­thal­mol­o­gists start with Avastin. If they need to switch med­i­ca­tions, even if pa­tients have Medi­care there can be sig­nif­i­cant costs to the pa­tients them­selves. I have had pa­tients who couldn’t af­ford the switch when they needed it. Even the lower-cost Avastin adds up, es­pe­cially for those on a fixed re­tire­ment in­come. And some pa­tients can’t even af­ford the less ex­pen­sive med­i­ca­tion when it needs to be re­peated ev­ery month. men­tal­ists, civil so­ci­ety, na­ture lovers and peo­ple from dif­fer­ent walks of life were also ISLAMABAD—Chair­man Se­nate Mian Raza Rabbani has urged Com­mon­wealth na­tions to make col­lec­tive ef­forts for over­com­ing the chal­lenges of poverty, il­lit­er­acy and ter­ror­ism by boost­ing mu­tual co­op­er­a­tion and learn­ing from one an­other ex­pe­ri­ences. Chair­man Se­nate ex­pressed these views at re­cep­tion or­ga­nized in honor of the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Com­mon­wealth Par­lia­men­tary As­so­ci­a­tion and par­tic­i­pants of the three-day Par­lia­men­tary staff de­vel­op­ment work­shop for Asia and South East Asia.

Raza Rabbani em­pha­sized that na­tions be­long­ing to Asia need to look in­ward, build on the Asian dream to put Asia back on the map of the history and give Asia its right­ful place, said a news re­lease is­sued here on Satur­day. He fur­ther said “the re­gion is pass­ing through a great deal of trou­ble and Com­mon­wealth Par­lia­men­tary As­so­ci­a­tion (CPA) pro­vides us an op­por­tu­nity to learn from one an­other’s ex­pe­ri­ences and ex­change of ideas.”

“CPA is an es­sen­tial re­quire­ment in present day polity where we share com­mon val­ues, our prin­ci­pled po­si­tions and have a com­mon her­itage” , he added. He said CPA can be a very ef­fec­tive fo­rum to be able to take those goals for­ward as the na­tiona share com­mon­al­ity of views.

He ex­pressed the con­fi­dence un­der the dy­namic lead­er­ship of Ak­bar Khan the new Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, CPA would be play­ing a more ac­tive role in put­ting par­lia­ments to­gether and mak­ing col­lec­tive en­deav­ors for over­com­ing com­mon chal­lenges. Raza Rabbani ex­pressed his gratitude to the CPA for co-host­ing an international work­shop in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Se­nate of Pak­istan and said that such in­ter­ac­tions are nec­es­sary for ex­change of views, shar­ing of ex­pe­ri­ences and learn­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized best prac­tices for ef­fi­cient ser­vice de­liv­ery and im­prov­ing qual­ity of work.

He ap­pre­ci­ated the ex­cel­lent ar­range­ments made for work­shops and ex­pressed the hope that such fruit­ful in­ter­ac­tions would con­tinue in fu­ture as well. Later, the newly elected Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the CPA Ak­bar Khan also ad­dressed the par­tic­i­pants. “I be­lieve that com­mon­wealth na­tions have a wealth of ex­per­tise and a wealth of wis­dom”, CPA Sec­re­tary Gen­eral said.

He also un­der­scored the need for boost­ing fur­ther boost­ing co­op­er­a­tion and ex­plor­ing new av­enues to learn and share ex­pe­ri­ences. Ak­bar Khan said that com­mit­tee sys­tems of the Na­tional As­sem­bly and Se­nate very vi­brant and ac­tive which shows that Par­lia­ment is play­ing an ac­tive role. He also high­lighted the sig­nif­i­cance of the trained and well qual­i­fied Par­lia­men­tary staff es­sen­tial for pro­vid­ing ex­per­tise to mem­bers of par­lia­ment.

He termed his visit a pleas­ant one and ex­pressed his sin­cere ap­pre­ci­a­tions for the ex­cel­lent ar­range­ments. He lauded the ded­i­ca­tion of the par­tic­i­pants and re­source per­sons. The Par­lia­men­tary Staff De­vel­op­ment work­shop con­cluded in Islamabad which touched upon dif­fer­ent cru­cial area nec­es­sary for par­lia­men­tary sup­port. Par­tic­i­pants of the course and re­source per­sons ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion over the con­tents and other learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties pro­vided dur­ing this three day work­shop.

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