Monday, February 1, 2016

Is There Something You Don't Know About Your Meds?


"Do not be afraid of those who may taunt or persecute you. Everything they do—even if they think they are hiding behind closed doors—will come to light. All their secrets will eventually be made known. And you should proclaim in the bright light of day everything that I have whispered to you in the dark. Whatever whispers you hear—shout them from the rooftops of houses.

Don’t fear those who aim to kill just the body but are unable to touch the soul. The One to fear is He who can destroy you, soul and body, in the fires of hell."
~ Matthew 10:26-28, VOICE ~

For families that have a member with a chronic illness, disability, or special need, medicine is as much a part of our days as the air that we breathe.  Many of our children take controlled or expensive drugs, injectables, and treatments that aren't necessarily available at your corner pharmacy.  These prescriptions can mean improved quality of life or even prolong the lifespan.  While pharmaceuticals can play a critical part in our families' lives, we can too easily fail to properly educate ourselves on them, deferring to the recommendations of doctors.  We do this to our own detriment.

Less than a year ago, The Center for Medical Progress stunned the nation with a series of upsetting expose videos.  The under cover sting operation seemed to reveal that executives at Planned Parenthood were dealing in a market for the body parts of aborted babies who were at a gestational age advanced enough to distinguish various critical organs such as kidneys, liver, and thymus.  The entire investigational series was beyond horrific.

Regardless of how one views this type of "gotcha reporting" and the truth of what was shared, the images and verbal descriptions used were heart-wrenching.  Leading an organization that values life at every stage and ability level, I was brought to tears by the CMP investigation more than once.

It made me angry.  What sort of sick researchers create the demand for fetal body parts obtained through late term abortion?  How DARE drug companies explore creating pharmaceuticals to save one life by destroying the life of another?

In December, this story became a more sobering reality to me.

Regular readers of this blog know that our son has Hemophilia A - Severe, a life-threatening, genetic, chronic bleeding disorder.  He infuses synthetic clotting factor intravenously at home three times per week.  In the past year, a new generation of longer-acting clotting factor has come to market, which offers the opportunity to eliminate one of the three infusions administered per week.  One less infusion per week hasn't sounded all that enticing to our family, so we haven't made a change of product at this time.  However, other new products that would cut infusions to only once a week are in the pipeline with pharmaceutical companies.  That promises to be even more exciting for patients like our son.  Regardless of whether we are currently using them or not, these longer-acting drugs are the subject of much conversation within the bleeding disorders community.

Given all of this conversation, you would think I would have done more homework on this next generation of product.  I am ashamed I didn't do enough.  I found myself caught off-guard when in a discussion about these drugs a couple of months ago.  I was speaking with someone in the pharmaceutical industry before the holidays and was shocked to learn from them that several brands of the new, longer half-life clotting factors are created using the human embryonic kidney (HEK293) cell line.  At first I was confused and skeptical, until I saw it in writing.  This friend laid before me the package insert full prescribing information from at least 2 different brands of clotting factor.

As a mother who has prided herself on being an educated parent advocate, I was embarrassed that these products had been on the market for months without me being aware of their use of embryonic stem cells.  I sat at the table stunned, face numb, feeling like my pants were down around my ankles in public.  Up to this time, the use of aborted fetal cells created outrage in me over what might be done with them.  Now this was REAL.  I felt sick to my stomach.  This happened much more quickly than even I had anticipated.

As it turns out, I probably shouldn't have been as shocked as I was.  Apparently, this embryonic cell line has been used in various ways for decades without the general public being fully cognizant of it.  In fact, it is likely that all of my children were vaccinated with immunizations that were grown in those same fetal tissues.

Let me explain to you how this process takes place.  Certain drugs are propagated or grown within live cells.  These drugs are not produced in a way similar to baking a cake where you throw ingredients into a big bowl, mix them together, then turn them out.  Rather, they are grown in a way similar to bacteria reproducing in a nutrient compound within a Petri dish.  For the type of next generation clotting factor I am describing, some brands are actually propagated in the cells still kept alive and reproduced from the kidneys of a baby that was aborted, known as the HEK293 cell line.  Other brands are propagated in Chinese hamster ovary cells, thus removing the bioethical dilemma.

The Pontifical Academy for Life 2005 statement, "Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived From Aborted Human Foetuses," is very clear in its position on this topic.  Says one Catholic expert off the record, "If at all possible, we ought to avoid using any product derived from aborted babies. However, if it is necessary to use such a product, then those using it have a grave responsibility to avoid giving scandal by voicing their conscientious objection to those responsible for producing or providing the product in order to encourage them to find other morally licit means."

Now, for some people, the thought is that their drugs don't contain the actual fetal tissue that is used in the production process, so they have no trouble with this new generation of biologics.  However, for our family, this is a point of great ethical discomfort.  While the HEK293 line goes all the way back to a child likely aborted in the early 1970's, we still find it disturbing that 293 aborted fetal experiments had to take place leading up to establishing that cell line (This is where the number 293 originates in the name HEK293).

As we moved forward equipped with this knowledge, I wanted to confirm how my son felt about the topic.  I sincerely feel that his opinion should be his own, especially as he draws closer to adulthood.  To my surprise, he was firm in his opinion.

"No, Mom.  That's wrong.  Besides, it's too much like being a Frankenstein monster with that stuff injected in me.  I don't want to be using factor made that way," he resolutely proclaimed.

When we went in to see his hematologist a few weeks after discovering this information, my son made his position clear, especially after the hematologist suggested that he may be recommending the longer half-life clotting factor for my son in the near future.  I was proud of him, taking such a big position at such a young age.  I was also pleased with his hematologist.  While he didn't necessarily share my son's position, he respected it.

I share this personal story with you because I believe in being an INFORMED patient.  I believe that Jesus calls us to bring to the light things that are going on in the dark.  With a major cultural slide in morality, we parents cannot rest when it comes to staying on top of these critical facts.  Your decision may not be my decision, but there is little I resent more than not having all of the information laid out in front of me to make my decision.  If pharmaceutical companies have such a clear conscience about using these embryonic stem cell lines to develop their products, why do they bury it in the fine print of those long prescribing information package inserts rather than using it in their marketing material?

Those of us who have children diagnosed with rare and genetic diseases are especially vulnerable, needing to have a clear stance on this topic or we may find ourselves facing serious treatment dilemmas.  Ours are the types of diagnoses that scientists try to use to justify some of their immoral experimentation and grant funded work. Research and vectors for gene therapies are topics on which we are morally obligated to educate ourselves.  There is big money involved in all of this, so we remain naive at our own souls' and the culture's peril.

It is my clear, informed opinion that if we use these types of biologics without conscientious objection -- making manufacturers and doctors aware that we want more principled options in treatment -- no matter how long ago that baby was aborted, we continue to create a market for these trafficked baby body parts.  If you or your child personally rely on such drugs as your only lifeline, you may feel very differently from me.  Regardless, I love and respect you.  I just think it is critical for all parents to know what they are doing and to keep fighting for morally ethical treatments.

I believe we should be clearly shown the facts so that we can each make that moral decision for ourselves.  As for our family, we don't believe a child should die so that ours might live.  We have held that position from the first day of our children's lives.  We believe Someone already died in our place for us on the cross.

PRAY:  Holy Spirit, reveal what is hidden so that we can make choices that honor You.  Cover parents like us so that we do not make ungodly decisions where treatment is concerned.  Help us to reflect Your goodness and glory in this depraved world.

~ Barb Dittrich

*For more reading to make your own informed decision visit:

8 comments:

  1. So much to think and pray about here Barb. Thank you so much for sharing this. AND your son is a role model for us all!:)

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    1. Thank YOU, Debbie, for your kind words. Some people prefer blissful ignorance, but God compels us to proceed with His Spirit-filled wisdom.

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  2. Yes! Thank you for saying this. I wish more people knew the same thing about vaccines. Many of them also contain DNA from aborted fetuses. Not to mention I have a vaccine-injured injured son. Discussions about pharmaceuticals (including vaccibes) seem to drive Christians to say some horrible things. I wish people who follow Jesus would be willing to listen to these conversations with an open mind!

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Sara. People need to use their minds and be kind to one another when examining such an emotionally-charged subject. Life is hard enough without us being cruel to one another.

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  3. Wow! I had no idea the drug companies were doing this. Thanks for bringing it to my attention and for posting this link on DifferentDream.com's Tuesday link share. Your son's moral compass is amazing!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Jolene. That boy of ours surprises us nearly every day! Because of him we've learned some pretty intense things. Glad we could bring this to light for you.

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  4. Many times or most often, we do not know what is REALLY in our meds or the treatment we are receiving. Or what I might mean to say is mostly it's not a matter of caring to know just as long as it can or will make us better, keep us from disease or illness. As a person living with Rare Disease (one of the more than 7,000 currently known) likely until we realize we have no known treatment(s), no cure, no therapy, no relief from pain and we begin to look for answers, help, and hope for drug therapies that we REALLY begin to research and read enough in-depth to realize that some things need objection to or don't align with our ethical and moral views. I agree that it should be laid out clearly the facts of each treatment so we all can make wise and informed choices according to the own dictates of our conscience. Thank you.....The Wisdom (Holy Spirit) of the Lord was Upon Her....

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. I think the important thing for us to ALWAYS remember is that no matter the treatment or outcome, our ultimate HOPE is in Jesus. Staying close to Him will always assure God's best for us, no matter the diagnosis.

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