A treatment that is used in very few Latin American countries and that orally less than ten countries in the world administer it, is in Costa Rica, a formula that is managing to change the life prognosis of patients suffering from promyelocytic leukemia.
In Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL), immature white blood cells called promyelocytes accumulate in the bone marrow. APL is a subtype of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The symptoms tend to be similar to AML.
According to Dr. Willem Buján, a specialist in Hematology at Hospital México, to date they have managed to treat seven patients with APL, obtaining a 100% positive response to treatment, and which begins to be noticed within two weeks after starting treatment. Previously, with the conventional chemotherapy, 30% of the patients died, in the beginning month of treatment.
Dr. Buján and Dr. Olga Baudrit, of the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Costa Rica (UCR), since 1998 had explored the possibility of using Arsenic Trioxide in the treatment APL, however, it was last year (2016) that a team of specialists was formed, to work with a novel idea; use the oral rather than the intravenous route, based on the fact that its efficacy in the treatment of this type of leukemia was already scientifically documented and with the advisory of Dr. Wendy Stock of the University of Chicago.
The use of this method also reduces the previous costs in the treatment of APL. For example, before the patient had to be hospitalized for chemotherapy for a period of more than 26 days, now the patient can be treated on an outpatient basis, with one time hospitalization of about 9 days.
There is also a considerable reduction in the cost of medicines for the treatment of the disease, which is more than ¢3 million colones per patient treated, but also, there is a reduced need for blood transfusions and the use of antibiotics.
The medication, applied orally, is less toxic than doing it intravenously, easier to administer, much cheaper because its preparation is done in the laboratories of the CCSS, it has very good tolerance in patients and great effectiveness.
The Hospital Mexico receives between 12 to 15 new cases APL every year.
The work of Drs. Rodríguez, Buján and Rojas were recently recognized by the Society of Hematologic Oncology (SOHO) annual meeting in Houston.