Drug safety debates: African patients largely in the dark
Love's summed up the health concerns raised in the two studies on the drug's efficacy in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer and concluded; "... until we answer those questions, we should not be giving it to everybody because we hope it will help someone!". Her thought piece also pointed out that mice data does not necessarily assure safety in human use.
The blog got me thinking on how little, if anything, lay patients know about the medicines they consume - or any safety issues that might apply. To my mind, inigent African patients in rural areas are especially vurnerable to receiving FDA "red flagged" drugs because of lack of access to reliable media. Also the unavailability of basic cancer drugs in these far flung places - due to poor procument and corruption in South Africa, means that given the choice, most cancer patients will take a risk and ingest unsafe drugs than have no treatment at all.
I am blessed to be able to read, to have access to technology and to be a National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC, DC, USA) trained advocate because I can read and understand the miniscule scientific life preserving value of taking Avastin. And also that its efficacy in increasing survival does not meaningfully increase when it is used in combination with other commonly used breast cancer drugs.
Let's hope that the surplus of unsold Avastin will not be shipped from the USA for "donation" to an African country with a corrupt medicines control system or worse, with no drug safety control system to safeguard patients' rights.
I know first hand how receiving "drugs that might improve my prognosis" can go ridiculously wrong. Drug toxicity from my breast cancer treatment has left me with a permanent heart condition!