Modern medicine clearly cannot cure everyone. The medical community fails a great many patients. It certainly failed my wife Gena and, as I have written, that failure very nearly killed her.
Five years ago, Gena was given multiple routine MRIs to check on an arthritic condition. To generate a better image, a contrast dye is often injected into the area of the imaging. The chemical agent most commonly used is a heavy metal called gadolinium. These tests yielded little about arthritis, but did result in gadolinium poisoning. In theory, gadolinium should be expelled from the body through the kidneys. When gadolinium breaks into its free form before being expelled from the body, as was Gena's case, a patient can suffer adverse reactions.
Her MRIs ultimately led to Gadolinium Deposition Disease. Gadolinium Deposition Disease has only recently become a diagnosed medical condition. Five years ago we did not know the cause of her suffering and declining health. For years, her condition remained undefined or misdiagnosed. Gena was hospitalized numerous times suffering multiple, debilitating bouts of pain and burning throughout her body. Her long-term injuries include cognitive deficits, body pain and burning, kidney damage, loss of energy and mobility, as well as difficulty breathing due to rib damage. Now, almost five-years post-gadolinium poisoning, she continues to require regular stem cell therapies and other treatments to heal her central nervous system. It has cost us more than $2 million dollars out-of-pocket for treatments to try to rid gadolinium from her body. While Gena's condition has improved, there is no known cure for Gadolinium Deposition Disease.
It is why, as you may have recently read, my wife Gena and I have filed a lawsuit against 11 drug manufacturers charging that both patients and doctors have been misled as to the safety of gadolinium-based contrast agents. It is one of a number of similar cases filed in state and federal court. This litigation is at present the only course of action victims can take to see that drug manufacturers are accountable for threatening the lives of so many people who undergo MRI contrast testing without proper warning.
We are blessed to be able to afford the alternative, integrative treatments needed to help bring about at least a measure of recovery for Gena. Insurance currently does not pay for these treatments. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also has yet to approve the most common gadolinium removal treatment, chelation, a treatment that clears toxic metals and minerals from the body. Patients must not only seek out qualified practitioners to provide these treatments, they must pay for them themselves.
The Food and Drug Administration is the federal agency charged with making sure that drugs are safe. Unfortunately, it seems that they are understaffed, or too slow to respond as needed. While the FDA announced recently that it will require additional warnings for gadolinium-based contrast agents to alert patients to gadolinium retention in the human body, in Europe, the European Medicines Association has already banned several of the most common gadolinium-based contrast agents.
Meanwhile, questions are being raised about the excessive influence the pharmaceutical industry appears to have on federal policy and protections. The president recently went after drug makers stating that the drug industry is "getting away with murder." As an example of how the government is fighting back, House Republicans have proposed eliminating billions of dollars in corporate tax credits that for three decades have allowed pharmaceutical companies to claim a 50 percent tax credit for the cost of clinical trials of what are known as "orphan drugs," medicines intended to treat rare diseases. Sales of orphan drugs hit $36.1 billion last year. In 2018, the U.S. is expected to grant nearly $2.8 billion in orphan drug tax credits to pharmaceutical companies as the cost for these drugs continues to skyrocket. In a sweet deal with the Food and Drug Administration, companies whose drugs are deemed orphans get a package of financial incentives, including tax credits and seven years of market exclusivity. Even one of the policy's Democratic creators has come out in favor of restricting or replacing this tax credit.
According to a report published earlier this year in JAMA Internal Medicine, another way in which the pharmaceutical industry puts their thumb on the scale in currying influence is through patient advocacy organization donations. Of the 7,865 patient advocacy organizations in the U.S. studied, two-thirds of patient advocacy organizations reported receiving pharmaceutical industry funding.
What this lawsuit filed by our attorneys at Cutter Law (along with other filings) hopes to accomplish is to let the pharmaceutical industry know that it's not acceptable to cover up a problem or take a wait-and-see approach when dealing with patient safety. The National Academy of Medicine estimated that there are 400,000 preventable adverse drug events in hospitals each year, costing $3.5 billion. These patients are real people. Try to imagine for a moment each number from 1 to 400,000 as a face. Behind each face is a person who had a life and now that life has been disrupted. They are now in distress, maybe even danger. All of their loved ones are affected.
When Gena speaks out, she is speaking for the thousands of people she has been in touch with who are also stricken with Gadolinium Deposition Disease; some of them terminally so. Their numbers are dismissed as insignificant. They are never given a face. They are those people who reside in what the medical community and pharmacology consider the margin of error. Where decisions are often made not on what is a medical certainty, but merely scientific conjecture.
So she is speaking for them. She does this at great personal cost. Every retelling of her story brings back the years of her ordeal. It is painful and draining, and it takes great courage and conviction for her to do it — every time. Besides being the woman I love, she has always been the most remarkable person I've ever known. She is also the bravest.
Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.