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Affordable anti-rejection drug as effective as higher cost option
Date:10/15/2009

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. A newer, less expensive drug used to suppress the immune system and prevent organ rejection in kidney and pancreas transplant patients works just as well as its much more expensive counterpart, according to a new study by researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

Such discoveries are vital in an era of skyrocketing health care costs and debate over health reform, said lead investigator Alan C. Farney, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of surgery in the Department of General Surgery, Transplantation Services.

"I think it's very important that the public consider cost, and that they ask their doctors if there are alternatives for them that are less expensive," he said. "Why should we use one drug or intervention over another that is equally effective and a fraction of the cost?"

For the study, published recently in the journal Transplantation, researchers looked at the two most common drugs used for induction immunosuppression therapy with kidney and pancreas transplants:

  • alemtuzumab, a newer drug that costs about $1,000 per single-dose treatment and is marketed under the name CampathTM; and
  • rabbit antithymocyte globulin, which costs about four times more for its multidose treatment than alemtuzumab, and is marketed under the name ThymoglobulinTM.

Both drugs destroy the cells that cause organ rejection during induction immunosuppression therapy a short-term, early treatment meant to rapidly lower the immune system to prevent rejection until the patient begins taking daily drugs to suppress the immune system.

Though more expensive, rabbit antithymocyte globulin has generally been more commonly prescribed than alemtuzumab at Wake Forest Baptist and other transplant centers because there has been a concern that the newer drug would suppress the immune system too much and lead to infections or cancer, Farney said.

"We want to avoid acute rejection, but we also don't w
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Contact: Jessica Guenzel
jguenzel@wfubmc.edu
336-716-3487
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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