213 posts in the category “ALS”

The ALS battle forces changes

Posted September 25th, 2017 by

Jim Burton in Dalton, Ga., in January 2015 while on a freelance assignment for a statewide newspaper. Photograph by Gibbs Frazeur.

A guest blog by member Jim Burton, the ALS Warrior

 

A harsh reality of progressive diseases like ALS is that your body is constantly changing. After my ALS diagnosis in January 2013, I noticed that the progression seemed to happen in stages. After losing some degree of capacity, I’d settle on a new plateau, which became my norm for a while. The plateaus have become shorter, and the declines have become more pronounced.

Neurologists call ALS a progressive disease, but to my family and me it’s digressive as my health declines. In turn, the digression forces change as today I can’t do what I did yesterday.

The biggest changes happened early on as I lost the ability to walk and began using a motorized wheelchair. As dramatic as the change appeared when I became a de facto paraplegic, the new plateau felt manageable. With a handicap-equipped van and hand controls for driving, I maintained most of my independence.

For several years after the diagnosis, I worked as a freelance journalist not only writing stories, which I could do from my home, but also going on location for the photographs. In one week, I traveled alone about 900 miles throughout Georgia and stayed in several hotels. Two years later, I had digressed to yet another plateau, and that independence became history.

Transitioning to a motorized wheelchair represented a radical lifestyle change. Now the disease has reached my shoulders, arms, and hands, creating new and different challenges.

Jim Burton in Dalton, Ga., in January 2015 while on a freelance assignment for a statewide newspaper. Photograph by Gibbs Frazeur.

Recently, I’ve made another major adjustment. Practicing journalism and doing location photography has become impractical. Just this year, I’ve lost the capacity to type, which I’ve done since the ninth grade. I now produce copy like this blog with talk-to-type software, and I’ve written four novels. The capacity to continue writing has kept me “in the game.” Though fiction is a new genre for me, I’m growing as a writer and continuing to exercise my creative capacity as a communicator. This new discipline keeps my mind sharp and my motivation high to press on and live as fully as possible even with my digression. Still, new challenges arise daily.

Jim Burton speaks with M.B. Howard, a former colleague, during the twenty-year reunion July 29, 2017, of a former Memphis-based nonprofit where they both worked. The trip from Atlanta to Memphis would have been impractical for Burton, so the organizers recommended an adjustment that allowed him to participate via Skype. Photograph by Bill Bangham.

In my home office, I have a workstation with a desktop computer and printer. When first diagnosed, I worked daily on my final doctoral writing project and used the printer constantly. Normal functions included loading paper, changing ink cartridges, loading documents into the feeder, and of course retrieving the printed pages. Each of those seemingly simple tasks now exceeds my physical capacity. The most frustrating challenge has been the inability to retrieve a printed piece of paper that lays on a shelf about four inches off the table. Unable to raise my hand that high, I discovered a way to work around that challenge. By placing my stapler beneath the shelf, I can put my hand there and then reach the printed paper. Another problem solved. These incremental changes that allow me to solve new challenges, create hope. And with every accomplishment, ALS loses.

Several years ago, I determined that I would not see myself as an ALS patient or victim. I’ve chosen to be an ALS warrior because I fight this disease every day along with thirty thousand other Americans and their families. Whether large or small, each victory matters.

I encourage you to remain determined each day in your battle to defeat ALS.

Jim Burton is a writer based in Atlanta who frequently writes about his ALS journey at http://life-bluezone.com/blog.html.

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word.


Want to know more about Radicava (edaravone)? Here’s a snapshot:

Posted August 17th, 2017 by

With the recent FDA approval of Radicava (edaravone), we wanted to know more about how it works and what it means for patients living with ALS. We asked Maria Lowe, Pharm.D., BCPS, and our Health Data Integrity team, to give us a snapshot of the drug, how it’s used and what you should know. Maria’s rundown is meant to give you more context so you can have better conversations with your care team – as always, talk with your physician before starting any type of new treatment.

Radicava: The quick hits

  • Radicava works as a free radical scavenger.
  • When free radical (toxic by-products of cells that are highly unstable and reactive) levels are too high, cells are damaged resulting in oxidative stress (which may damage motor neurons). The way in which Radicava works to help patients with ALS is not fully understood yet; however, researchers believe that by getting rid of these free radicals it can help prevent some cell damage.
  • In clinical trials, treatment with Radicava was found to slow the decline in functional disability as measured by ALSFRS-r scores for some patients. However, it is important to note that Radicava does not stop the death of motor neurons (it’s not a cure).
  • Radicava may be taken in conjunction with riluzole (consult healthcare provider).
  • Radicava is administered intravenously (60 mg IV over 60 min) daily for 14 days, followed by a 14-day drug-free period. Subsequent cycles are administered daily for 10 days over a 14-day period followed by 14-day drug-free periods. Because this drug is meant for long term use, patients will need to have a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line) or some other kind of catheter installed.

Clinical trials and FDA approval

  • FDA approval for Radicava was based on a Phase III clinical trial conducted in Japan only in Japanese patients. Patients enrolled had to have ALS for less than two years, have normal respiratory function as well as the ability to complete most activities of daily living.
    • Radicava may be processed and function differently in different patient populations. Post marketing data will be important for determining the effects and impact of the drug in patients other than those who participated in the clinical trials.

Side effects and reactions:

  • The most common side effects reported in clinical trials include bruising, problems walking (gait disturbance), and headache.
  • Hypersensitivity reactions:  Radicava may cause allergic reactions that could happen after the infusion has finished.
    • Symptoms to watch for: Hives, swelling, dizziness, wheezing, shortness of breath, itching, and fainting.
    • If you’ve experience allergies to other medications before, inform your healthcare provider.
  • Sulfite allergic reactions: Since Radicava includes sodium bisulfite as an ingredient, those with sulfite allergies should be cautious when taking this drug.
    • Those with asthma have a higher risk of developing sulfite sensitivity. Let your healthcare provider know if you have asthma.
    • Symptoms to watch for: Hives, trouble breathing/ swallowing, itching, swelling, dizziness, asthma attacks (in people with asthma), wheezing and fainting.
    • If you have a sulfa allergy, you may or may not have a reaction to this drug. Sulfa allergies are a result of hypersensitivity to a chemical structure called sulfonamides, which are common in many antibiotics. Sulfites are chemically different from sulfonamides and any reaction to sulfites is not related to sensitivity to sulfa drugs. Both can cause reactions, but they are not related.
  • If you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant and/or are breastfeeding, let your healthcare provider know. It is not known if Radicava will harm the baby or if it passes into breast milk.

Availability and access

  • Radicava is expected to be available in August of this year as a brand name drug and it’s estimated it will cost around $145,000 per year in out of pocket costs (does not account for insurance coverage).
  • Because the drug isn’t available yet, many insurance companies may not have developed policies regarding coverage. Different insurance programs will develop such policies of coverage of new drugs at different times.
  • MT Pharma America (MTPA), the manufacturing company for Radicava, has developed a program called Searchlight Support to help people with ALS learn more about this treatment and to help them find and secure coverage through their insurance.
    • Searchlight Support offers out of pocket support options only to certain eligible patients with commercial insurance. Patients with Medicaid, Medicare and other government funded insurance may not qualify.

Interested in learning more about whether Radicava is right for you?

Check out the medication guide and contact the Searchlight Support program to learn more about the potential financial support programs and to find an infusion center near you.

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word.

 

Disclaimer: At PatientsLikeMe, we’re all about transparency, so please keep in mind that this piece is solely to provide a snapshot of Radicava so you can stay informed and make better decisions with your care team. This content isn’t sponsored and we don’t have a financial relationship with the drug manufacturer.