Like Life?

A word I hear every few weeks at chemotherapy is Neulasta. I looked it up since I was being given an injection each time I heard the word. I went directly to the manufacturer’s website at https://www.neulasta.com/learn-about-neulasta/ to find out just what it was:

“Neulasta® is a prescription medicine used to help reduce the chance of infection due to a low white blood cell count, in people with certain types of cancer (non-myeloid), who receive anti-cancer medicines (chemotherapy) that can cause fever and low blood cell count.”

But then I needed to define ‘non-myeloid’ for myself. No problem. I called up my old standby The Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/nonmyeloid:

“not being, involving, or affecting bone marrow”

Okay, got it. Neulasta reduces low white blood cell count infection in cancer that doesn’t affect the bone marrow. By the way, this is accomplished by forcing white blood cells – the infection fighting blood cells – to mature quickly.

No sooner did I get that straight in my mind than I started hearing a different word: Udenyca. It turned out that Udenya is a biosimilar for Neulasta. Now we get to the meat of the matter.

Just what is a biosimilar? I took a former English teacher’s stab at the definition and decided it meant ‘like life.’ But does it? The Free Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/biosimilarity helped us out here:

“biosimilar

(bī′ō-sĭm′ə-lər)

adj.

Highly similar in function and effect to an existing biological product,

especially to a biologic that has al-ready been clinically tested and approved for use.

n.

A biological product that is biosimilar to an existing product,

especially to a biologic”

Keep in mind that an adjective (adj.) describes a noun, while a noun (n.) is a person, place, thing, or idea.

Frankly, I didn’t find this very helpful. So I did what I considered the logical thing and looked to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website at https://www.fda.gov/media/108905/download for more explanation:

“A biosimilar is a biological product

FDA-approved biosimilars have been compared to an FDA-approved biologic, known as the reference product. Reference and biosimilar products are:

Large and generally complex molecules

Produced from living organisms

Carefully monitored to ensure consistent quality

Meet FDA’s rigorous standards for approval

Are manufactured in FDA-licensed facilities

Are tracked as part of post-market surveillance to ensure continued safety

A biosimilar is highly similar to a reference product

For approval, the structure and function of an approved biosimilar were compared to a reference product, looking at key characteristics such as:

Purity

Molecular structure

Bioactivity

The data from these comparisons must show that the biosimilar is highly similar to the reference product.

A biosimilar has no clinically meaningful differences from a reference product

Studies were performed to show that biosimilars have no clinically meaningful differences in safety, purity or potency (safety and effectiveness) compared to the reference product:

Pharmacokinetic and, if needed, armacodynamic studies

Immunogenicity assessment

Additional clinical studies as needed

Studies may be done independently or combined.

A biosimilar is approved by FDA after rigorous evaluation and testing by the applicant

Prescribers and patients should have no concerns about using these medications instead of reference products because biosimilars:

Meet FDA’s rigorous standards for approval

Are manufactured in FDA-licensed facilities

Are tracked as part of post-market surveillance to ensure continued safety”

Okay! Now we’re talking. Pretty simple to understand, isn’t it? Well, maybe there’s a word or three we might need defined. Let’s take another look. These two definitions are from Dictionary.com.

“Pharmacokinetic – the branch of pharmacology that studies the fate of pharmacological substances in thebody, as their absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination.

Immunogenicity – causing or capable of producing an immune response.”

Wikipedia offered this interesting difference between Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamics.

“Pharmacodynamics is the study of how a drug affects an organism, whereas pharmacokinetics is the study of how the organism affects the drug. Both together influence dosing, benefit, and adverse effects.”

The point here is that the synthetic drug and biosimilars are not the same. Maybe my guess at their definition is far off the mark.  And lest you’re beginning to think this is a cancer blog rather than a Chronic Kidney Disease blog, biosimilars are used in CKD, too.

This snippet from the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) at https://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/early/2018/08/03/CJN.01980218 will give you the idea:

“Most recognizable to nephrologists is the biologic recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO). Considerably more expensive to develop and produce, biologics are more structurally complex than small-molecule drugs. By 2020, biologics will constitute an estimated 27% of spending on worldwide pharmacologics.”

Remember erythropoietin, more commonly known among CKD patients as epo? Not to worry; MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/erythropoietin/article.htm will remind us:

Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hormone produced by the kidney that promotes the formation of red blood cells by the bone marrow. The kidney cells that make erythropoietin are sensitive to low oxygen levels in the blood that travels through the kidney.”

Un-oh, I almost forgot to explain the difference between biosimilars and biologics. According to the Congressional Research Service at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44620.pdf:

“A biological product, or biologic, is a preparation, such as a drug or a vaccine, that is made from living organisms. Compared with conventional chemical drugs, biologics are relatively large and complex molecules. They may be composed of proteins (and/or their constituent amino acids), carbohydrates (such as sugars), nucleic acids (such as DNA), or combinations of these substances.

Biologics may also be cells or tissues used in transplantation. A biosimilar, sometimes referred to as a follow-on biologic, is a therapeutic drug that is highly similar but not structurally identical, to a brand-name biologic (i.e., the reference product). This is in contrast to a generic chemical drug, which is an exact copy of a brand-name chemical drug (i.e., the reference listed drug). Because biologics are more complex than chemical drugs, both in composition and method of manufacture, biosimilars will not be exact replicas of the brand-name product, but may instead be shown to be highly similar. However, for many years, the drug industry and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have coped with the inherent variability in biological products from natural sources. FDA maintains that the batch-to-batch and lot-to-lot variability that occurs for both brand-name biologics and biosimilars can be assessed and managed effectively.”

Hmmm, looks like I’ve made a fairly simple concept terribly complex.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Someone on a Facebook Chronic Kidney Disease Support Group Page asked how we can make others more aware of what CKD patients want. I’ve been tweeting (exchanging remarks on Twitter) with those who could answer this question just recently. How perfect was that?

The first thing the American Society of Nephrology requested is that those of you who are familiar with Twitter, or are willing to become familiar with this social media, join the monthly #AskASN twitter chats. To join Twitter you simply go to Twitter.com and sign yourself up, no special expertise necessary. That pound sign, or as it’s commonly known now – hashtag, before the words signify that this is a person or group with a Twitter account. What comes after the hashtag is your handle, the name you choose for yourself. Mine is – naturally – #SlowItDownCKD. You can search for me on Twitter.

#AskASN is one of the hashtags of the American Society of Nephrology, the ASN which you’ve often seen me quote. Yes, they are respected. Yes, they are doctors. And, yes, they do want to know what we as kidney disease patients want them to know about our lives as their patients. Big hint: their next Twitter Chat will be in late July.

This year’s May 28th blog was about KidneyX, the same topic as June’s Twitter Chat. Here’s a little reminder of what KidneyX stands for:

“Principles

  • Patient-Centered Ensure all product development is patient-centered
  • Urgent Create a sense of urgency to meet the needs of people with kidney diseases
  • Achievable Ground in scientifically-driven technology development
  • Catalytic Reduce regulatory and financial risks to catalyze investment in kidney space
  • Collaborative Foster multidisciplinary collaboration including innovators throughout science and technology, the business community, patients, care partners, and other stakeholders
  • Additive Address barriers to innovation public/private sectors do not otherwise
  • Sustainable Invest in a diverse portfolio to balance risk and sustain KidneyX”

Did you notice that first principle: patient-centered? Or the fifth one: collaborative? We are included in that; we’re the patients.

IDEA Lab is one of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ partners. This is how they define themselves:

“We test and validate solutions to solve challenging problems in the delivery of health and human services.”

And this is what they had to say during the KidneyX Twitter Chat:

HHS IDEA Lab‏Verified account @HHSIDEALabJun 19

Absolutely. Patients are innovators and we need to recognize that #askASN#KidneyX

Patients. They want to hear from us, patients.

Before reproducing a small part of the @AskASN KidneyX Twitter Chat, I want to introduce the players.

Kevin J. Fowler (@gratefull080504) is a patient who has had a preemptive kidney transplant and is highly involved in the patient voice being heard.

Tejas Patel (@GenNextMD) is a nephrologist with a large social media presence who advocates “for halting the progression of ckd so no dialysis or transplant [is necessary].”

James Myers (@kidneystories) is a fairly recent transplant with a strong advocacy for transplant patients.

I’m me; you already know me.

Now, the excerpt:

Thank you @GenNextMD Me too! #AskASNhttps://twitter.com/GenNextMD/status/1009245134964318209 …

Kevin J. Fowler added,

  • Tejas Patel @GenNextMD

Replying to @kidneystories

I am advocating for halting the progression of ckd so no dialysis or transplant #askasn #moonshot

Replying to @gratefull080504@GenNextMD

@GenNextMD That’s what those of us pre-dialysis want, too. The question is how do we do that? As a lay person, I’m at a loss here.

Replying to @Slowitdownckd@gratefull080504

Major undertaking by medical community, organizations (ASN, AAKP, NKF, RPA) and implementation of breakthrough therapies keeping patient central. Engaging all stakeholders will help prioritize what works for patients. Dialogue via formal & social media helps us understand better.

Replying to @GenNextMD@Slowitdownckd@gratefull080504

We recently had patient editorial in @CJASN by @gratefull080504 and interview https://www.kidneynews.org/kidney-news/features/patient-engagement … Lot of work needs to be done

I read the article. I think you should, too. Kevin makes the point that patient voices need to be heard and the nephrologist who was interviewed with him, Dr. Eleanor D. Lederer, agrees.

From reading my blog alone, you’re already familiar with the oft quoted American Society of Nephrology (ASN), American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) which was the subject of June 25th blog, and the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), a staple in the blog. But what is the RPA?

Let’s find out. It turns out that this is the Renal Physicians Association. Their website is at https://www.renalmd.org/. If you go there, you’ll notice four different choices. One of them is Advocacy. That’s the one I clicked. Keep in mind that this site is for physicians.

Become An Advocate for Excellence in Nephrology Practice

It is not only your right but also your obligation to let elected officials and policy makers know how you feel about important issues. It is your responsibility to speak out on matters that affect you directly or no one else will. RPA has developed pathways to allow you to do this.

Recognizing that nephrologists and their practice teams have limited time, an easy way to get involved in federal advocacy is by joining the RPA Political Action Committee (PAC) and Nephrology Coverage Advocacy Program (NCAP).

Take Action Nationally!

RPA’s Legislative Action Center (LAC) facilitates the important communication between RPA members and their members of Congress as well as representatives in their state legislatures. The LAC allows RPA members to track the progress of and search for all current legislation being considered by Congress.”

Our doctors are being asked to speak with the government on our behalf. But how will they know what we want or need, you ask. Easy enough: you tell them when you see them. You have regular appointments; that’s when you can talk with them about legislation you feel is necessary.

I never knew how much my opinion is wanted. I never knew how much YOUR opinion is wanted. Now we all know, so how about speaking out, raising your voice, and advocating for yourself. It’s not that scary if you start by just speaking with your doctor.  Although, I’ll be looking for you on ASN’s #askASN Twitter Chat in late July.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Book It!

Every once in a great while, I’ll come across a Chronic Kidney Disease book that I want to share. I think there were only three or four of these in the last six years. Today, I add another one. Dr. Kang, the author, is a local doctor. That was the first thing that caught my eye.

I thought I would be reading the usual information … and I did, but it was written with verve and included some information I hadn’t known. So I did the obvious. I contacted the good doctor to see if he’d be interested in sharing his knowledge with us on the blog. I’m so very glad he agreed.

Dr. Mandip S.Kang, is not only a senior partner in Southwest Kidney Institute right here in Phoenix, but he is also a Fellow in the American Society of Nephrologists I like so much. Just last week, I gleefully accepted their invitation to join the Twitter chat (#AskASN) about staging in CKD and often refer to them in both my blogs and books. He is also the author of the IBPA Gold Award winning book: The Doctor’s Kidney Diets……A Nutritional Guide to Managing and Slowing The Progression of Chronic Kidney Disease, the book that caught my eye.

This is what he wrote for us:

Receiving a diagnosis of kidney disease is not a death sentence for patients, but is often overwhelming and a life changing event. Patients are often confused and the information they receive from different healthcare providers may not be the same. Patients often ask, “What should I do?”

Having experience as a former Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at University of Utah School of Medicine and currently as a Senior Nephrologist (kidney specialist), I have gained some insight into how to alleviate my patients’ fears and I have come up with a four point plan that I try to teach my kidney patients. I believe that the role of the physician is to be a teacher and a coach as patients navigate their way into the complexities of a Chronic Kidney Disease diagnosis. I believe that every kidney specialist should have a chalk board in the patient exam rooms and lay out the plan for his or her approach to their patients just like we were taught in schools.

Here is a four point plan that all kidney patients should remember as they visit their kidney specialists and at home. The acronym for the plan is very simple: D.A.M.E.

1. ‘D’ in the acronym stands for diet. The reason I chose diet first comes from the Chinese wisdom in treating any disease: ‘He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skills of the physician.’ Patients must be taught what the kidney diet is and why they need to follow it for the rest of their lives. Since the kidney diet is complex, they must be provided with educational materials that outline the diet and be strongly encouraged to visit a kidney dietitian who will tell them what and how much to eat.

Dietitians and kidney doctors will teach them about the benefits of eating fresh foods and avoiding processed foods. Patients should remember that the ‘p’ in ‘p’rocessed foods is akin to ‘p’acked with calories. Learning to read a Nutrition Facts label is a must if the doctor wants to do all he or she can to help the patient slow down – and sometimes halt – the progression of kidney disease. It is important to remember that in the earlier stages of kidney disease, the diet may not be as strict – but if progression of the disease is noted, then dietary modifications are more stringent and frequent laboratory tests may need to be performed to assess progress.

2. ‘A’ in the four point CKD plan stands for activity. “What is activity?” you might say. It could mean walking more, taking more steps daily, joining a gym, hiking, biking or any activity that keeps you on your feet. As most Americans already know, the obesity rates in the USA are skyrocketing leading to most chronic health conditions such as Chronic Kidney Disease, Coronary Artery Disease, Stroke, Arthritis, Lung Disease, etc. These chronic health conditions stem from lack of activity and consuming excessive calories. Many patients lead a sedentary lifestyle such as watching TV for long hours which leads to worsening of their health issues. Patients should be encouraged to do the activities they enjoy the most such as dancing, or walking in a park or on a beach. Patients should weigh themselves on a weekly basis to monitor their weight.

3. ‘M’ in the acronym stands for medications that your doctor prescribes. Your doctor may also tell you not to take certain over the counter medications that may harm your kidneys such as Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Ibuprofen, Celebrex, Prilosec, herbal remedies, etc. I encourage all patients to memorize their medications and keep a list with them at all times. Remember that all medications are prescribed because the benefit to the patient outweighs the risk and no medication is entirely safe; therefore, it should be taken as prescribed and any side effects reported to your doctor. You should not take any new medicine unless it has been cleared by your kidney specialist.

4. ‘E’ in the above acronym stands for education. This is the key element in the D.A.M.E plan to treat patients with CKD. Unless the patient has a clear understanding of their disease process, labs, treatment plan, and the role of diet, activity, and medications, they will not be successful in managing and slowing the progression of Chronic Kidney Disease. How well a patient does will depend on their knowledge of their disease and if they comply with the instructions given to them by the kidney doctors.

I hope that all kidney doctors and patients keep the D.A.M.E. acronym in mind. Patients who are active participants in their care lead healthier and productive lives. I wish all of the readers well.

I hadn’t heard of the D.A.M.E. method before but I like it, especially “the ‘p’ in ‘p’rocessed foods is akin to ‘p’acked with calories.” Many thanks, Dr. Kang, for introducing this common sense theme to us.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!