Thursday, April 10, 2008

04/10/08 - Aranesp

This goes along with the previous "Quick Medical Update" post. Originally, it was part of that post, but I ended up breaking it out in case people don't want to read it, and it was turning out to not be so quick...

My right ear was ringing constantly, seemingly due to the shot of Aranesp I received on Monday 4/7. So I looked up the potential side effects of Aranesp (which is supposed to boost my RBCs). I referred to the drug fact sheet that I received (from Moffitt [hospital] by Aranesp's manufacturer, Amgen) when I got my first injection of Aranesp.

Aranesp printed fact sheet, click to enlarge

Well, ringing of the ears (tinnitus) wasn't on the fact sheet, so I went to the manufacturer's suggested website of It didn't take me long to find a potentially very bad side effect that disturbed me - it seemed to be all over their website. The same side effect is not listed on the printed fact sheet that I have, nor was I ever told about it by my doctors... I've included some quotes below.

Aranesp website, PDF file

To make a long story short, chemotherapy is basically a drug that will hopefully minimize or eliminate your tumor (cancer). Most of the time, it also has bad effects on the rest of your body (for example, my low blood counts). A potential side effect of Aranesp is to make your tumor grow. Exact opposite of chemo. Another potential side effect is death. I don't know all the medical terminology, but there seems to be about a 5% chance of these effects. I don't like to bet, and I certainly don't like those odds.

Aranesp website, later in the same PDF file

The above studies show that a potential side effect of Aranesp is to shorten how long you live after you're done with chemotherapy. The average "shortening" of one's life was 339 days if you had a head or neck tumor. Well, I did Email my doctor's assistant, to say I had some "concerns." She replied back saying,"the benefits out-weighed the risk." I will certainly discuss it more thoroughly with my doctor when I meet with him on April 22nd.

Another item that was mentioned on my drug fact sheet was I thought I might be able to learn something there, and I briefly thought that at least Amgen (again, Aranesp's manufacturer) was providing patients more information on low red blood cells. Nope. Every link goes to a screen that says, "This section currently being updated. Please check back shortly." Well, it has said that for a week, could it be that a big drug manufacturer is lying?

I thought I might learn about anemia, oops!

You can do with this information what you want to. I have had four injections of Aranesp before I stumbled upon it. Hopefully, other patients will see it. Amgen should make this information MORE PUBLIC. I don't know, maybe right in their printed fact sheet? I don't think very highly of them. I also don't think that I will get another shot of Aranesp, if I can help it.

The ringing in my ear? It's still there. I can live with it. However, I can't say the same about Aranesp.

04/10/08 - Quick Medical Update

On Monday, I had my blood counts checked early in the morning. No surprise - they were low. Later in the afternoon, I had to go to Moffitt to get an injection of Aranesp to boost my Red Blood Cells. I will have my blood checked again today (Thursday). I wouldn't be shocked if I needed a platelet transfusion within the next couple of days because they were low at the beginning of the week.

When I was typing this post, I went into a big diatribe about Aranesp, but then decided to put it in a separate post. Hopefully, I will get to it sooner than later...