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MagazineJune 2002 (Vol. 13 Issue 3)Rapamune

The subtle hand of the pharmaceutical company touches many things (usually with money), including people such as journalists, researchers and academics

The subtle hand of the pharmaceutical company touches many things (usually with money), including people such as journalists, researchers and academics. Sometimes, 'independent' books are entirely funded by a drug company, and no one is the wiser - that is, until something goes wrong.

America's health professionals recently received a free copy of a book that extolled the virtues of Rapamune (sirolimus) as an immunosuppressant for liver transplants. The book was funded by an 'unrestricted educational grant' from Wyeth, the manufacturer of Rapamune.

Unfortunately, the authors were overzealous in their praise of the drug. In fact, in trials where the drug has been used with liver transplants, the patient has sometimes died within 30 days.

Wyeth pulled the drug from a new liver transplant trial after initial findings went against it. In one case, over 5 per cent of patients receiving a liver transplant suffered a thrombosis within 16 days of the transplant while on the drug, compared with just 0.9 per cent of those taking another immunosuppressant, tacrolimus. In another case, 8.9 per cent of Rapamune patients suffered a thrombosis compared with 3.8 per cent of tacrolimus patients.

It's not the first time the drug has come to the attention of the health authorities. Wyeth has been taken to task over the labelling on the packaging that so confused several nurses that they gave the wrong dosage to six people, including a child.

Rapamune was originally intended to help stop organ rejection with kidney transplants, and is intended to be taken with cyclosporin and corticosteroids.

Aside from the occasional death, Rapamune can also raise your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, cause high blood pressure, anaemia, acne, rash, joint pain, diarrhoea, and decrease your potassium and blood platelet levels.

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