Ankylose This! Living with Ankylosing Spondylitis

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Vioxx recall affects South African former minister, AS sufferer

With so many people suffering from arthritis or related conditions (like ours), the Vioxx recall was naturally a big story worldwide. From today's edition of South Africa's Sunday Independent, a story about what arthritis sufferers are going to do next has the following tidbit about a former South African cabinet minister who also has ankylosing spondylitis:

Among those at a loss on what to do without the drug is Valli Moosa, former minister of the environment and tourism, himself an arthritis sufferer, who has used it for a number of years. . . .

The 47-year-old former minister, who retired from the cabinet this year, declared at the meeting on Saturday that he had been fighting a battle with arthritis for most of his life.

Moosa said he had been suffering from ankylosing spondylitis since he was about 14 years old but was only diagnosed with the disease when he was in his mid-30s. . . .

He said that for many years he had battled with pain in his back and hips and as a result had never led an active life. He said that even after constant visits to doctors throughout his school and university life, his disease was not diagnosed until he was in his mid-thirties.

"It was embarrassing for me because I couldn't walk properly or find a comfortable sitting position and doctors constantly told me that there was nothing wrong with me," he said. Close to 10 years after his diagnosis, Moosa said that he was now more active and fitter than he had been in his life.

He has conquered Mount Kilimanjaro and took part in seven Cape Argus cycle tours. He said that he finally reached a point where he was no longer prepared to live with the disease but the disease "is going to have to live with me".

On a related note, the Vioxx recall reminds me of the situation, half a century ago, where radiation treatments were found to be effective against ankylosing spondylitis, but tripled your chances of getting leukemia. While most of us would rather accept certain daily pain than possible cancer, I did spend a moment contemplating the ifs. And I'm sure that people for whom Vioxx has been effective and who've used it for years are weighing the risks themselves right now. Especially when, for so many of us, we've tried so many different drugs and only one seems to work well.

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