A rare genetic condition that responses poorly to a common chemotherapy drug takes the life of a patient. He wife sues.
David McIntyre had a reaction to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)’s chemotherapy drug which took his life. His widow then filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university in 2019. OHSU promised to change an element of the chemo treatment and pay $1 million to settle.
OHSU released an email following the deal, stating its team “has followed, and continues to follow, national cancer and evidence-based medicine set forth by national expert consensus in the field.”
And even though the institution denied any wrongdoing connected with its chemo ingredients, Joanne McIntrye and her attorney, James Huegli, were satisfied with the outcome of the case.
“We’re going to be saving more lives,” she said. “I’m happy. OHSU is happy.”
David McIntyre was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in September 2018. He secured treatment at OHSU, but because he was living with a genetic condition that affects as many as 8% of people (Dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase deficiency), his body couldn’t process one of the chemo drug (capecitabine) he received. Capecitabine, commonly used with chemotherapy treatment, works by slowing or stopping the growth of cancer cells. According to WebMD, the medication is typically taken “by mouth as directed…usually 2 times a day; once in the morning and once in the evening. (Patients) swallow the tablets whole with a full glass of water (8 ounces/240 milliliters) within 30 minutes after a meal.”
David quickly became” extremely ill, with vomiting, a rash and diarrhea,” after taking the drug, according to the lawsuit. “By the time doctors gave him the antidote, it was too late for it to be effective. The 78-year-old Portland man died Dec. 12, 2018.”
Joanne, in filing her case, mainly took issue with the fact that a patient who receives the antidote fast enough after showing symptoms has a good chance of living. Yet, OHSU “never told him about the genetic condition or that it can be tested for, nor did it give him the antidote in time,” according to the lawsuit. She has spent the last few years advocating for more awareness around the use of capecitabine in individuals with similar genetic conditions and the importance of offering an antidote as soon as possible should they experience an adverse reaction.
“I could not just allow his death to be in vain,” said McIntyre, 81. “I just gritted my teeth and decided this was my goal for the rest of my life.”
Because of Joanne’s efforts, OHSU’s oncologists “will now be required to tell patients about the genetic condition before initiating the chemotherapy drug,” spokesperson Tamara Hargens-Bradley said, adding, “Although OHSU said testing for the genetic condition isn’t standard practice, the university is nonetheless going to include education on the condition in its Oncology Fellowship program. It is also going to create a guide that describes the condition and how to identify symptoms of a toxic reaction to the chemotherapy drug. This resource guide will be available to everyone in the oncology department.”
Joanne is planning to divide the settlement funds between herself and her two adult children. She will also donate $5,000 to her advocacy group, Advocates for Universal DPD/DPYD Testing.