Procrit an Affordable Alternative to Blood Transfusions for Cancer Patients

James had been feeling a bit tired and winded whenever he would exert himself. He just thought it was his age catching up to him; after all, he was seven (7) months away from his 63rd birthday. But to his daughter, Roslyn, aging was not a good enough reason to lose over 50% of his strength. She pushed for him to go to the doctor. The doctor ran a battery of tests ranging from blood tests to urine and bowel samples. Finally, there was the scary call that came from the doctor telling James to get to the hospital emergency room a.s.a.p because they had found blood in his stool (bowels), indicating that he was bleeding internally, and his blood level was at a dangerously low level of 4.5 g/dL. In fact, the doctors at the hospital wondered why he hadn’t passed out by now. After a few tests it was revealed that the source of bleeding was from a lesion on his esophagus that turned out to be cancerous. This quickly became a life or death situation.

The doctors told James he had approximately 3-6 weeks left to live if action wasn’t taken at that moment. They needed to stop the bleeding and get rid of the cancer, but with such a low blood level his body was too weak to withstand any surgery or treatment. The obvious solution was a blood transfusion, but to James, a devout Jehovah’s Witness of 52 years, this was not an option. The doctors warned that going other routes would be risky. But James, his family and friends were not concerned. They had made it their business to research alternative medicinal solutions. The first thing that came to mind was Procrit.

Procrit is a drug that mimics erythropoieten, which is a hormone produced by the kidneys that stimulates cells in the bone marrow to produce new red blood cells. This process does take a longer amount of time than a blood transfusion would, but for James, the benefits far outweighed the risks. With such a weakened system, the virtually non-existent side effects of Procrit makes this medication a top choice for sufferers of certain cancers and HIV and AIDS related diseases. It is administered via a hypodermic needle, similar to those used to give insulin to diabetics, and may cause fever and slight pain at the sight of the shot. But this is minor. The only potentially serious side effect is for dialysis patients. They may experience seizures, but this usually happens within the first 90 days of use.

When compared to a blood transfusion, Procrit does take longer to get desired results. However, along with less side effects, the fiscal cost could be significantly less. While Procrit costs around $1800-$6000 per shot (compared to the cost of nearly $600 per unit of blood), because Procrit can be administered on either an out-patient or auto-patient (self administered) basis you don’t incur the hospital fees for rooming and nursing and professional fees. Not to mention that when it comes to blood transfusion, while the unit itself may be pretty reasonably priced, each hospital may tack on fees for various tests associated with a transfusion as well as handling costs. And because Procrit poses less of a threat of causing side effects, money can be saved in treating ill effects. But money and side effects aside, does it really work?

James, mentioned earlier, started receiving 3 shots of Procrit a week immediately. Within 4 weeks, his blood count had risen to 14, giving him time to gain strength, and his body the ability to undergo the surgery he needed. After the surgery, his blood count dropped to 9 and he received 1 shot of Procrit a week for 6 weeks until his blood count reached 12.5. Today, he is making an excellent recovery from his brush with death. Why was this drug, Procrit, so important for me to research? Because James is my father. And in the end, Procrit saved his life.

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