Some months ago, my life took a turn towards something I could never have prepared myself for. I am a pharmacist and I was on one of my professional trips to Japan, scheduled to go back to Islamabad in two weeks time when I started having the cramps. Dismissing the thought as a minor stomach ache, I went about my daily tasks, oblivious to the condition I was soon to face. By mid afternoon it got worse, as though someone had stabbed me in the abdomen.
I had had this condition before, as back in Islamabad, I had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease a year back. Minor stomach aches were the norm, so I presumed it would go away with some rest and Remicade (Infliximab), the medicine my doctor back in Shifa hospital, Islamabad had prescribed me. It is a monoclonal antibody working against tumor necrosis factor alpha used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases including Crohn’s disease. As fate may have it, I had packed only a limited supply, which as the trip was at an end, was finished. I put off the thought of a doctor’s visit, assuring myself the ache would go away as it was only a matter of time I was on my way back.
At evening the next day, however, I had had it, my threshold of pain could no longer keep up. I decided to visit the doctor, after enduring several hours wait I came through with the doctor’s prescription. It was Eve (Ibuprofen), being a pharmacist I knew by the generic name of the drug that it was a pain killer, I also knew that It would be of little or no help to me. I still gave it a try. As predicted it was to no avail, my symptoms were worsening and I knew my condition would rapidly deteriorate if I didn’t get my hands on Remicade soon.
I decided to take matters into my own hands. Sitting down with the laptop, I fired up my search for drugs corresponding to Remicade. I knew the basics to look for, a few months back, I had heard talk of a new drug named Vedolizumab, which was being used for patients with my condition when they did not respond to Remicade, on one of my regular checkups to the doctor back in Islamabad. I Googled Japan Pharmaceutical companies possibly producing Vedolizumab. This is when I finally hit Entyvio, a drug working against integrin receptor, usually used for patients resistant or intolerant to the standard treatment of Crohn’s disease produced by a company named Takeda Pharmaceuticals.
This was my mark, I read about all the side effects and treatment procedures online. Armed with the info I faked my prescription on the very piece of paper the doctor gave me earlier and set out for a pharmacy. Having bought the medicine from the pharmacy, I took them along with the prescription I had faked, to the nearest hospital. After the usual two hours long wait, I finally had the chance to hand over the prescription to the doctor who without further questioning directed me to a side room. An hour later, I was lying on a bed in a dingy hospital wing, hooked up to an IV. An hour went by, this was when I could no longer control my insides. I vomited profusely, and let me tell you, it left me with no strength in my body, I thought I could barely breath. The staff cleaned me up and after thirty minutes of 300mg Entyvio infusion in my body, I left the hospital.
Through all this I had known it to happen before, as I had my experience with Remicade. Although my episodes with Remicade were of a much greater severity, then what I had just experienced. There was no joint pain, no breathlessness and no or any amount of fluid diarrhea, which used to drain me every time I took a dose of Remicade. The next morning, I was awakened by a splitting headache, the healing process was slow, the nausea got to me and I could have coughed my lungs out due to the severe bronchitis I contracted but despite these mishaps, my condition started to improve. Gradually, I felt some of my energy coming back, and most important of all, the intractable, agonizing pain for the first time, started to show some mercy. My happiness knew no bounds; I was finally healing!
My second dose of Entyvio was scheduled in two weeks, just before my flight back to Pakistan. I was astounded by the progress I had made. It was straight to Shifa hospital from the airport. I underwent a series of tests and to the surprise of my doctor, I was en route to a rapid recovery. I decided to start taking Entyvio on a regular basis, substituting Remicade. My doctor agreed to the proposal. As I had taken my first two doses of the designated course at 0 and 2 weeks already, my next shot was to be at the 6th week followed by a dose every 8 weeks.
The result was remarkable. I gained a fast recovery at the expense of only a fraction of the suffering I had to endure with Remicade. Not only this, I no longer suffered from the regular tummy aches I used to have! I have taken Entyvio for 8 months and it has been 10 months to date, I am in remission, a happy individual with almost no signs of the disease I once had. I have Entyvio to thank for this.