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Cancer patients worry not only about their disease, but also the side effects of the drugs they take to treat it. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and biologics firm Amgen are partnering on a multi-prong program to get patients to pay attention to another, related, danger: chemo-related infections.
Amgen joined forces with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the CDC Foundation to launch a three-year initiative to provide resources and educational tools for cancer patients, their caregivers, and healthcare professionals about the risks and impact of infections.
Announced on Wednesday, the program was spurred by a new Harris Interactive survey that revealed that a quarter of patients interviewed had experienced an infection in the past 12 months while receiving chemotherapy. Additionally, 22 percent of patients with infections said that it took four weeks or longer for the infection to clear up, and more than half had to go to the emergency room for treatment.
The poll also revealed that more than 90 percent of specialists are worried that patients are resistant, or are building resistance to antibiotics used to cure infections.
Amgen markets, Neulasta, a treatment for the reduction of infection caused by neutropenia, the decrease in white blood cells brought on by chemotherapy. However, the biologics firm made it clear that this campaign is unbranded, and was created with the sole purpose of educating patients.
There are two main components to the new program: an evidence-based curriculum for clinicians on infection control for patients, as well as appropriate antibiotic management; and an interactive online tool for caregivers that will provide tailored educational messaging on how to best manage an infection.
“At the end of the day, we want to make sure that all three of these audiences know how best to prevent an infection, and how to best manage if they get an infection,” said Ashleigh Koss, spokesperson for Amgen.
According to Koss, cancer patients have a weakened immune system, either due to the cancer itself or because of treatments such as chemotherapy. “If you have a low level of white blood cells and you have had a low level for some time, it puts you at a greater risk of infection,” Koss said. “Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy must do everything possible to prevent an infection that can impact their overall treatment.”
While this is the first time Amgen has teamed with the CDC to fight infections, it isn’t its first major marketing foray into patient education around the disease. In 2002, Amgen picked actor Rob Lowe to be the face of its “By My Side: Taking Control of My Cancer Treatment” campaign, which offered a bevy of touch points for patients, including a Web site and phone hotline.