PML or progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy is an often lethal continuously worsening disease of the brain. Its main symptoms are headaches, loss of cognitive function (ability to process information), weakness of the arms and legs, loss of memory, clumsiness and lack of coordination, aphasia (loss of ability to listen, speak, read, and write), problems seeing and sometimes, personality changes.
The cause of the disease is a virus that exists in a dormant state in most people in the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract. Eighty percent of the population has the virus in this latent phase. When the immune system becomes seriously compromised, however, such as in AIDS patients or in some people receiving immunosuppressive drugs, the latent virus is activated.
The virus causing the disease is called the John Cunningham virus (JCV), named in 1971 for the patient in whom it was detected. The virus travels through the bloodstream to the brain, where it progressively destroys the myelin, a protective substance surrounding the nerve fibers. This prevents the nerves from sending their messages to the rest of the body. The location of the myelin destruction determines the concomitant loss of body function.
People who are susceptible to PML are:
- Those with HIV and AIDS
- A small number of transplant patients who take immunosuppressive drugs
- Others taking corticosteroid or immunosuppressive medications
- Patients with systemic lupus erythematous
- Some cancer patients, including those with Hodgkin's disease, lymphoma and sarcoidosis
- Drugs such as Raptiva (to treat plaque psoriasis), Tysabri (to treat relapsing multiple sclerosis and severe Crohn's disease) and Rituximab (to treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis)
Raptiva was taken off the market in April 2009 because of its link to PML.
At the present time, the best way to treat the disease is to reactive the patient's immune system. This sometimes can be achieved by using different chemotherapeutic drugs. In HIV-PML patients, who constitute the largest PML population, beginning antiretroviral has reduced the mortality rate from 90 to 50 percent.
In others, however, the prognosis is dire. PML in these patients can last for months, while it inexorably advances. Most patients in this group die within six months. Those who survive PML often have severe neurological disabilities.
Who Qualifies for a PML Lawsuit?
If you or a loved one is suffering from this horrible disease, contact us to find out if a PML lawsuit is right for you. A lawsuit would seek compensation to pay for medical costs and expensive treatment programs. It can also help pay for financial responsibilities and support for a patient's family. Our PML lawyers will evaluate the details of your case to determine if you are a candidate. We represent patients and families with drug-related PML cases, involving Raptiva, Tysabri and Rituximab.
Contact our PML lawyers today for a free review of your case.