Medical Moment: The new leukemia drug saving lives

Published: Jul. 4, 2022 at 8:41 PM EDT
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(WNDU) - Normally it takes months, even years, for the FDA to approve a new drug.

But that’s not always the case!

One prescription was put on the ‘fast-track’, to FDA-approval last year. And now, it’s hitting the market, and changing lives in the process!

“Myelofibrosis is a chronic leukemia,” said Ruben Mesa, MD. “It affects about 20,000 patients. It can progress to acute leukemia and sadly can be fatal disease.”

Myelofibrosis is one of forty chronic leukemias. It’s an uncommon type of bone marrow cancer that causes an enlarged spleen and disrupts a body’s normal production of blood cells.

Dr. Mesa played a key role in the fast track approval by the FDA for Pacritinib. The oral capsule is the first therapy approved for myelofibrosis patients with low platelet counts.

“So, people could have improvements in spleen and symptoms and two, that the blood counts stayed the same or improved, which was a significant benefit over other historical therapies,” said Dr. Mesa.

And although the new drug has been fast-tracked and approved quickly by the FDA, the process to get here has been anything but fast.

Dr. Mesa has been studying it for more than a decade.

Traditionally, aggressive treatment for myelofibrosis included bone marrow transplants but that can only be done in 10 percent of the cases. That’s why it’s so important to find new medicines that will help patients.

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