Inhibitor Summit

Inhibitor Summit 2008

The very successful Inhibitor Summit meeting took place this past week and weekend in Denver, Colorado. Over 80 families from all over the US attended to learn about inhibitors, current research, and treatment and insurance information. If you’ve never been with a group of inhibitor patients, you’d be amazed at their level of knowledge and expertise. I guess they have to learn fast, given the nature of the disorder, which is a severe complication of hemophilia.

I arrived a day early to help facilitate the Novo Nordisk Consumer Council, which is comprised of patients with inhibitors and parents of children with inhibitors. It’s a wonderful chance for the patient community to give direct feedback to Novo Nordisk, and to learn in detail about the company’s philosophy, products and ideas. The Council actually helps to shape some of the educational material coming from Novo Nordisk. Working from 8 am to 4 pm, with only a ten-minute break, we really accomplished a lot and learned a lot!

The Summits just keep getting better and better. Dr. Guy Young from Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles, moderated the panel speakers and also gave an excellent overview on inhibitors. He focused on differences between FEIBA and NovoSeven, the two main treatment options for inhibitor bleeds, their efficacy and safety, dosing regimens. Most exciting were the slides showing how effective it is to use these products prophylactically to prevent bleeds. Dr. Steven Pipe gave a very insightful yet understandable presentation on the future of inhibitors: what’s being worked on now around the world–very exciting things. I’m saving what I learned to publish in PEN soon.

I attended a few other sessions: Regina Butler, RN of Philadelphia, and Angela Forsythe, PT, teamed up to give a dynamite presentation on joint disease. This is especially important for those with inhibitors due to the excessive bleeding they face. Angela stressed the important role physical therapy and exercise play in rehabilitating joints. Stopping the bleeds is not the only thing we have to worry about; we need to ensure the joints are cared for to help prevent future bleeds, and future deterioration. Excellent presentation.

There were other talks on pain management, prophylaxis, and central venous access devices. Again, CVADs are very important to inhibitor patients because when they have Immune Tolerance Therapy, they are being infused daily, sometimes for months! Vein access is extremely important.

I was honored to give a presentation along with Glenn Mones, VP Advocacy for the National Hemophilia Association, and Val Bias, colleague, friend and new CEO of NHF. We spoke about the changing insurance scene, what’s causing the changes, how we can advocate to slow down change and ensure we get the insurance coverage we need for these high cost, but life-saving products. (You should know that NHF is working hard to get a bill introduced to raise life-time maximums; go to www.hemophilia.org to learn more. They need your help!)

Novo Nordisk provided a grant to support the Summit, and it was great to see so many families returning from previous Summits. The event was planned and carried out by the amazing staff at CBCE. Thanks to everyone for making this event successful, useful and possible. If you have inhibitors, come to a Summit! The next one is in October in Birmingham, Alabama. If you know of someone with inhibitors, encourage them to register. The trip is free, and the knowledge gained is priceless.

(Photos: Rich Pezzillo and Sasha Cheatham; Dr. Manco-Johnson with the Wilkes family; Glenn Mones of NHF gives presentation; Kari Atkinson of Iowa and Laurie)

Great Book I Just Read: Miracle in the Andes by Nano Parrado
I had already read the book Alive by Piers Paul Read, and seen the movie, but they pale in comparison to this account, published 35 years later, in 2007, by the young man who actually walked out of the Andes, after 72 days in the most horrific conditions you can imagine. I could not put this book down. In 1972, a chartered plane crashed in the Andes, with a rugby team from Uruguay, which had been en route to Chile. The players were just boys, aged 17-21 mostly. How they survived and how they escaped is one of the greatest survival stories of all time. But this is a story of leadership, primarily, and teamwork, and faith. After you read this, you might believe anything is possible. An enthusiastic four stars!

Largest Ever Inhibitor Meeting in World

The Novo Nordisk Dallas Inhibitor Education Summit was the largest ever gathering of inibitor patients in the world–very impressive! Over 75 families attended. In the US, there are only about 1200 people with inhibitors. Trying to get this small group together for weekend is not easy, but they came from Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Florida, California and Pennsylvania, as well as many other states. It was great to see both old friends and make some new friends.

On Friday, I facilitated the Novo Nordisk Consumer Council Meeting, which brought together for the last time a team I have worked with for two years. Our role is to offer feedback to the marketing team at Novo Nordisk about product enhancement, educational materials, and needs in the inhibitor community. We also reviewed the first winner of the Uninhibitied Achievement Award, Mike McNamara, whom we had all selected at a previous webcast conference. Gar Park of Novo Nordisk reviewed our achievements of the past two years, and they were amazing! I think of all the consumer advisory groups I’ve worked with or facilitated this has been the most productive.

There were lots of tears shed when parting came (right, Theresa?), and we are now accepting applications for the next two years. If you know anyone with inhibitors or is a caregiver of a person with inhibitors who might be eligible and available, please let us know! We will need about 10 new council members.

The rest of the weekend was a series of excellent lectures and panel discussions on topics ranging from factor IX and inhibitors (an incredibly rare combo) to pain meds to advocacy. Excellent speakers, audience participation and flawless event planning by Cadent Medical made for a memorable weekend.

Next year the Summits will be held, but maybe with some changes in venue and direction. Be sure to check with both the NHF and HFA to learn where and when they will be held. If you have inhibitors, you will not want to miss these! All travel expenses have been paid by Novo Nordisk so it will cost you nothing to attend, and you have everything to gain!

(Photos: top down, Panel discussion; Consumer Council at Work; Mario and his mom, from San Antonio; Laurie with Deena and son Tyler; Jessica and Kerry; Laurie and Kerry with Cowboy Jim!)

Inhibitor Summit in San Diego


I am in California all this week and just spent the weekend in San Diego at another great Inhibitor Summit, this one with a record number of attendees from across the US. The energy at these events is tremendous, and the parents and patients are actively involved in all sessions. I was glad to see many people returning from last year, which made this very much like a reunion of friends.

Friday began with a wonderful review of inhibitors by Susan Karp, RN (University of California, San Francisco), who is well known and respected in our community. In the evening after dinner, a fun yet insightful icebreaker by Heather Huszti, PhD, a psychologist who works with families with hemophilia, who had quite a few fans in the audience. The activity taught us a lot about teamwork.

The Main Event on Saturday was chaired by Dr. Guy Young, now based in Los Angeles, who also gave us an overview of treatment strategies. And an incredibly inspirational talk was given by 23-year-old Rich Pezzillo of Rhode Island, whom I am honored to call my friend, about his experiences with inhibitors from age 18 to age 23. Rich has suffered tremendously and faced many hardships in the last five years, but it has only strengthened his resolve to live life to the fullest and deepened his faith. His speech really set a positive and uplifiting tone for the day.

There were sessions on venous access, diet, surgery, parenting, transition and ITT. The day ended with a great educational talk by Nathan Wilkes of Utah, who has a son with an inhibitor, on what he has learned about advocacy.

Well, the day didn’t actually end there. It ended with an amazingly fun celebration, under a covered tent, with a traveling petting zoo for the kids–complete with monkey, chinchilla and tortise. And for the grown ups? Karoake and dancing! Wow, do I have some incriminating photos of some of our community members! Only half kidding, just some memorable shots of dear friends having a great time. I do recall: Matt Compton and Gar Park singing “I Wanna be Sedated”; Chris and Leland Smith rapping “Walk This Way” a la Run DMC/Aerosmith with Ezra Robison; Shuantaye belting out some amazing Beyonce; Eva cutting some amazing dance moves; Eva, Shantaye, Doreen and the ladies looking like “Dreamgirls”; and everyone (me included) doing the electric slide! It was a wonderful time and we all thank Novo Nordisk for sponsoring this fabulous event that not only educated us, but brought us together to make happy memories and new friends.

I have the greatest admiration for families with inhibitors and what they endure, and am impressed with their exceptional medical knowledge. Congratulations to them all for their perseverance, fortitude and achievements!

Next Summit? In Dallas, October 6. Check out www.inhibitorsummits.org to see if you qualify to attend. I hope to see you there!

(Photos: Ziva Mann of Massachusetts and son Akiva; Laurie with long-time friends the Elkurds of Ohio; “Dreamgirls”; Laurie Kelley and good friends: Pattie Huerta, Barbara Chang and Linda Clement; Leland and Chris Smith as Run DMC, and Ezra Robison as Steven Tyler?)

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