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Sudden Death Puts Gene Therapy In Spotlight

Sudden Death Puts Gene Therapy In Spotlight

Jolee Mohr aged 36 may have died due to a controversial gene therapy study to help cure her arthritis. The cause of death is still being investigated.

Gene Therapy studies have been approved by the National Institutes of Health ever since the late eighties, till now there have been more than 800 studies involving more than 5000 patients. But these kinds of studies pushing for the development of new medicines can inevitably come with problems.

In the middle of last summer Jolee Mohr, aged 36 was transferred 320km from Illinois to a hospital in Chicago. She was suffering from failing kidneys and severe internal bleeding, 6 days later she died. Mrs. Mohr’s death was quite unusual; doctors and her husband, Robb Mohr vowed to get to the bottom of the illness.

jolee mohr and family Sudden Death Puts Gene Therapy In Spotlight

Mrs. Mohr got sick the day after her right knee was injected with a genetically engineered virus in a voluntary experiment to see if gene therapy might be the solution to ease the pain of Arthritis.

Jolee had lived with rheumatoid arthritis for 14 years keeping pain and stiffness under control with medicine. Early last year she had been encouraged to enroll in a gene therapy study by her physician Dr Robert Trapp, shortly later in February she signed the 15 page consent form agreeing to undergo the experiment.

Jolee was randomly selected to receive the largest dose of the altered virus and the first injection done in February seemed fine. It was after the second injection on the 2nd of July, she immediately became sick.

The Mohr’s were under the impression that the experimental treatment might relieve the chronic pain but later found out that this stage of the experiment was only to see if the treatment was safe.

Targeted Genetics of Seattle, the sponsor of this nationwide experiment has since stopped the work and all 127 patients involved are being evaluated. The company CEO H. Steward Parker said the study was carried out with the ‘highest level of responsibility’ and also that more key tests would need to be performed before they could determine the cause of death.

Dr Trapp did not respond to requests for an interview, he also declined to comment on how much money his clinic would have received from Targeted Genetics to reimburse costs for the study. However the doctor’s attorney David Drake said that, even though the doctor had enrolled about 7 patients in the program, his enrollment methods were ‘standard’ practice. Dr Trapp has not faced disciplinary action and his license is still active even though previously in 2002, he settled out of court in another case of negligence regarding a patient who developed eye problems whilst taking a different arthritis drug prescribed he had prescribed.

This case has raised issues concerning how medical studies are done and how much the volunteers are actually told about the risks. Mr. Mohr believed they could trust their physician of seven years but he and his family are now left wondering why the doctor would convince his wife to participate in something just to see how safe it is.

Surgery and medical treatments can go wrong anywhere the world, even in countries where the public standard of national health care is extremely high. Be sure to research thoroughly the treatments on offer and be aware of the risks involved. We at Thaimed are on hand round the clock to answer any questions you might have about medical tourism in Thailand and the services we offer.

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