So, the iPhone 6 is just about to hit stores, and by the time you read this, it will most definitely be sold out everywhere. They say that it’s going to be the biggest iPhone launch yet, with millions already pre-ordered and customers already waiting until November for some models. Then again, every iPhone release is the “biggest iPhone launch yet,” and my and the rest of my Apple brethren fall for it, every time. It’s a never-ending cycle, and as I was sitting here, waiting for my shipping confirmation, I realized that these bi-yearly iPhone releases reminded me of something else very similar – something that all of us with autoimmune disease go through all the time.
Since I have suffered with rheumatoid arthritis for so many years, I remember a time when biologic drugs didn’t exist. During those dark times, finding a medicine that would work was a lot like participating in the cell phone race – you had to update every two years, and you always had to pay through the nose. The progression of medicine was much different than it is today, and it went something like this.
When I got sick originally, there really wasn’t much information available on juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Since there was no Internet, the public library was about the only place to get information about anything if you didn’t own a set of encyclopedias. We eventually got the World Book from a door-to-door seller when I started sixth grade, but outside of a three-sentence blurb about the “autoimmune form” of arthritis, there wasn’t much on RA. It seemed that my doctors also got their information from a travelling salesman, because their clinical tactics looked a lot like trial and error.
When I first became ill, the infectious disease specialist I was seeing at the time immediately put me on aspirin. Large amounts of aspirin. Now, if you aren’t familiar with aspirin that’s not surprising – it has dropped in popularity due to drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen. Right now, it’s mainly used to help with blood pressure and to prevent heart attacks. When I was 10, though, it was the premiere anti-inflammatory. The only problem is that it causes horrible stomach issues when taken in higher doses. Oh, and, it also causes something called Reyes Syndrome – a fatal disease that affects the brain and liver. So, needless to say, I didn’t stay on that drug for long.
A year or two after the aspirin, I began to take Tolectin. This NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) was used to treat the joint pain and swelling I was suffering. Unfortunately, all it ever did was make us question whether or not it was working better than doing absolutely nothing. Of course when we were first pitched this “wonder drug,” it was the next best thing, and definitely the solution that would control my disease for sure. So, we bought in, of course, and got sold a bill of goods.
After the Tolectin didn’t work, we decided to move on to stronger medicines, and, of course, our doctors had another new drug that would be better and more effective than the last! This time the cure was called Gold, and it came in the form of a monthly injection. Of course, I didn’t want to get a shot every few weeks, but the doctors told us that this would definitely make my illness go into remission. So, we jumped in with both feet, yet again, and, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, Gold wasn’t the end-all, be-all, we were promised.
Gold didn’t turn out so golden, but, lo and behold, my doctors had something new, and this drug was definitely going to be the solution I needed. This one was called Methotrexate, and it was definitely going to fix what ailed me. Again, it was an injection, but this one was a bi-weekly stick, so I suffered through an hour drive every fourteen days. The drug certainly did something, but, unfortunately, that thing was to weaken my immune system. My rheumatoid arthritis, though, seemed to flourish like nothing was being done. Again, the promised “solution,” the latest and greatest, was nothing more than another unfulfilled remedy, and totally unnecessary.
I could regale you with ten more drugs where the same exact thing happened – I was promised the newest, latest, and greatest, most fantastic, best ever, most cutting edge medicine of the day, and it ended up doing the job for a short time before we began to look for a replacement. It happened for years until the biologic drugs came out, and even then, it took me another ten years to find a biologic that worked. I realized today that this is exactly like the iPhone cycle – a futile, never-ending cycle of release and re-release, with the powers that be always promising that the newest thing will be the best ever and nothing will top it. Well, I’m here to tell you that something will always top it.
So now, I sit here, and I worry that even my last drug, Kineret, the biologic that seemed to be my cure and has worked for four years, may now be wearing thin. I wake up every day now, feeling a bit less healthy and a bit more pain, and the fear builds more and more that I may soon have to look for a new medicine to fill that void. So, just like the iPhone cycle that I can’t seem to break free of, I am most likely about to re-join the medicine cycle as well. Round and round I go, hoping that someday I’ll find something that ends it for all time, and then I can rest. Although, I’ll probably be bored as Hell, too.