FIRST PERSON | An injectable form of Herceptin may be available to patients with HER2 positive breast cancer in the near future. Injectable Herceptin has many benefits over the traditionally IV-administered version. The main benefit is patient comfort and experience. Administering Herceptin subcutaneously instead of through an IV saves patients time, money and emotional distress.
Currently, Herceptin is administered in 18 sessions through an IV. I am in the process of this treatment and it required a port to be surgically placed in my chest in order for medical staff to administer the drug. Each IV session takes half an hour because I choose not to pre-treat with certain drugs to prevent side effects. I tolerate Herceptin well. If I needed to pre-treat the infusion time would be about an hour.
It is possible to deliver Herceptin through an IV in the arm, but my physician decided a port is the better route for my particular situation.
In order for me to receive Herceptin treatments, I have to travel two hours each way to the cancer-treatment facility, once every three weeks. It is a hassle and an increased expense for me.
A study published in the September 2012 edition of The Lancet Oncology shows that Herceptin administered subcutaneously, or by injection, is just as effective as the IV form of the drug. This is a huge advancement for patients requiring treatment with Herceptin. Once chemotherapy is completed, Herceptin is given as a single drug.
An injectable form of Herceptin opens the door for breast cancer patients to self-administer the drug. This will save patients time, money and stress. It will eliminate the need to travel to a doctor's office or cancer-treatment facility for IV infusions. By removing the need for medical staff to administer the drug, overall medical costs are reduced; the potential savings for patients is huge. This advancement opens the door for low-income patients without adequate insurance to have access to Herceptin treatment.
From a business perspective, providing an injectable form of the drug extends the patent for Genentech and Roche Biomedical. This is one scenario where both the patient and drug company benefit. If I was offered the choice of self-administering Herceptin or continuing with the current IV treatments, I would opt for the injectable version. The savings in travel expenses alone would make it very worthwhile.
Lynda Altman was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2011. She writes a series for Yahoo! Shine called "My Battle With Breast Cancer."
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