Roferon-A is a neutron bomb of a drug designed to megablast the most pernicious of systemic conditions, but not necessarily to leave the patient standing. As such, it recently won the accolade in the UK of becoming the first approved treatment for ch

Not that its earlier targets were any less ambitious. It was designed by its manufacturer Roche to treat hairy cell leukemia and AIDS related Kaposi’s sarcoma, and is based on the generic interferon alfa-2a.

It is given by injection and, naturally, only under medical supervision. As an anticancer drug, it is able to slow the growth of tumours, although researchers admit they do not know how it does this, which in itself is a worry.

Adverse reactions are better understood. As risks tend to rise in relation to benefits and as Roferon-A is treating life-threatening conditions it almost goes without saying that reactions can be severe, and include death itself.

You, the patient, should be warned of these risks beforehand. And if you are under 18 (an X-rated drug?), have a history of heart or kidney disease, seizures or a compromised central nervous system, this drug is not for you.

Reactions can include a heart attack, albeit rarely, but more common are those relating to the central nervous system, such as decreased mental status, depression, insomnia, dizziness and even coma.

Virtually all patients suffer some flu like symptom, and other possible reactions include a skin rash, vertigo, muscle contractions, earache, eye irritations, tremors and, believe it or not, hepatitis.

Daily dosages for hairy cell leukemia are 3 million IUs, and for Kaposi’s sarcoma 36 million IUs. Dosages should not be altered, nor should the patient use different varieties of interferon during a course.

If your doctor allows you to administer the drug yourself, make sure you are well hydrated and understand all the rules of needle use.

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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