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Patients with ‘Invossa stigma’ struggle to get treatment, insurance
  • By Jeong Sae-im
  • Published 2019.06.26 13:22
  • Updated 2019.06.26 13:22
  • comments 0

“I received Invossa injection in January, but the pain got worse. I’m getting a stronger painkiller now. It hurt too much, so I checked the ultrasound and found some lumps in my knee. No one gives me a clear answer to what they are and what to do about them.”

“I got Invossa treatment on March 22, and the drug was suspended in just a week. You can imagine how terrible I must have felt. My doctor said he was deceived, too. I registered for the long-term follow-up but have never heard a thing since. I’m frustrated.”

Patients made these remarks with anxiety and anger, at a meeting with Oh Kims Law & Co., a law firm helping Invossa-treated patients pursue a lawsuit against Kolon Life Science. The company explained the legal proceedings and countermeasures to the patients.

Eom Tae-seob, a lawyer at Oh Kims Law & Co., speaks during the briefing on Invossa-treated patients about a civil lawsuit against Kolon Life Science, in Seoul, Tuesday.

More than 130 people aged between 40 and 80 gathered for the law firm’s briefing at the Korea Block Chain Center in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul, on Tuesday. They were patients who received Invossa, gene therapy for knee osteoarthritis by Kolon Life Science, or their families. About 330 people have attended the law firm’s briefings across the nation since Saturday.

The patients are the biggest victims of the Invossa debacle. Suffering from degenerative knee osteoarthritis that exacerbated every day, they were desperate to try anything and received Invossa injection into their one knee or both knees.

However, they heard the shocking news that the drug injected into their body contained cancerous GP2-293 cells derived from the kidney, not cartilage-derived cells.

Kolon and the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety repeatedly said there was no safety concern, but no person clearly explained what exactly the injected substances were and if those were safe in the human body.

It has been over 80 days since Invossa became a serious issue, but the patients have not received any single contact, except for the hospital’s notice that they should register for the government’s long-term follow-up.

A bigger problem is that the history of receiving Invossa treatment has become a stigma for the patients.

Among the patients who joined the law firm’s suit against Kolon, some applied for an insurance claim for medical bills in March, but the insurance company refused to pay due to the Invossa issue. Another patient was denied cancer insurance subscription due to the history of Invossa treatment.

Others missed the right timing for the treatment and symptoms worsened.

“My father received Invossa injection, but the doctor was unaware of the exact drug ingredient. If my father uses another drug, no one knows how the two drugs will interact,” one person said during the meeting. “Invossa got rid of other treatment options.”

Another patient said doctors shunned to treat her after they found out that she had received Invossa. “My pain is getting worse, but the hospital said it had to wait and see, and prescribed me with anti-inflammatory pain relievers,” she said.

A third person whose mother was treated with Invossa was anxious.

“My mother was all healthy, except for her knees. One month after the Invossa injection, she had odd symptoms like blood and gallstone in the urine. I suspect it might be linked with Invossa,” she said.

As knee osteoarthritis tends to occur more in the elderly, some patients are still unaware that they are the victims. Thus, it is not easy to gather the patients’ voice, the patients said. At the meeting, the patients exchanged their contact numbers to share more information.


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