INSPIRATIONAL: Real people are driving medicine

http://mosaicscience.com/story/medicine%E2%80%99s-dirty-secret

Medicine’s dirty secret
Bryn Nelson gets to the bottom of an emerging – and often shocking – therapy.

29 April 2014

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Some doctors have likened the recoveries of desperately ill patients to those seen with anti-HIV protease inhibitors in the mid-1990s. After the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, performed its first faecal microbiota transplant in 2011, a patient who had been bed-ridden for weeks left the hospital 24 hours later. And in 2013, researchers in the Netherlands halted a landmark C. diff. clinical trial early for ethical reasons when they saw that the overall cure rate of 94 per cent with donor faeces had far outpaced the 31 per cent cured with the antibiotic vancomycin.

Yet few other interventions elicit such disgust, revulsion and ridicule. Chronicling a potential advance by a team of Canadian scientists, one newspaper account warned readers: “Hold your nose and don’t spit out your coffee”. In 2013, the founder of a patient advocacy blog called The Power of Poop wrote an open letter to 13 gastroenterology associations detailing the story of a Kentucky man who contracted an acute case of C. diff. Despite his family’s pleas, his doctor dismissed the idea of a faecal transplant as “quackery”. The man died the next day.

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Perhaps Catherine’s testimony helped sway the FDA. Perhaps it was the deluge of bad press that caught the agency off-guard as it struggled to balance the growing evidence of benefits with a highly variable and virtually unregulated practice that had flown beneath the radar. On 18 June 2013, the FDA bowed to pressure and partially reversed course, agreeing to exercise “enforcement discretion” for faecal microbiota transplants used to treat C. diff infections that weren’t responding to standard therapy. They wouldn’t be FDA-approved, in other words, but neither would they be prohibited.

Since the small victory, Catherine and her foundation have continued to push for more faecal microbiota transplant (FMT) clinical trials aimed at other digestive disorders, more research funding and more public awareness and education. She and a few board members who share her sense of humour have also begun crafting slogans that might eventually adorn T-shirts or sweatshirts. Her favourites? “Poop is the Sh*t!” and “Give a sh*t. Donate to the Fecal Transplant Foundation.” Her site also features an FMT awareness ribbon. It’s brown.

“It is what it is,” she says with a laugh. “There’s no way around what we’re talking about or what we’re dealing with.”

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So the FDA backs off.

Guess the drug companies aren’t happy with a competition to their high priced drugs.

The Sheeple need to take back their power.

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