Patient advocate Bob Miller, who's on the experimental drug Ampligen, has been urging FDA to approve the medication for ME by going on a hunger strike. He's been fasting since January 29th: six days. Healthy people fasting for six days would be weak. But someone with ME?
Last month another patient advocate suggested to me that ME patients or their loved ones go on such a strike. I shook my head and gave a gallows-humor kind of laugh. I thought it cruel to ask such sick patients to stop eating, more unthinkable than doing Hamlet without Hamlet. And as for loved ones who'd lend that kind of support, well, I don't know about you, but I don't know too many people who believe in ME, let alone be willing to fast for someone with the disease.
But maybe it doesn't always take a lot of people to effect real change.
Ironically, perhaps his being on Ampligen has given Bob Miller enough strength for a hunger strike. Or maybe Bob Miller's just so fed up with the pathetic state of affairs with ME that he brought out the big guns. With no drugs except tottering Ampligen and little useful research, it's drier than the Sahara out there. Miller's one-man hunger strike is, thankfully, garnering a lot of attention, including that of a well-known early AIDS activist, Cleve Jones.
Jones's character appeared in Gus Van Sant's fantastic movie Milk, about the slain politician and gay activist Harvey Milk. In this clip, Milk (played by Sean Penn), enlists Jones (Emile Hirsch) to join the revolution for gay rights. For a grim laugh, try substituting "CDC" for "Franco" and "ME people" for "gay people."
Here's the press release about Bob Miller's hunger strike:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Bob Miller and Courtney Miller
PATIENT ON HUNGER STRIKE GAINING ATTENTION
Well-known Journalist and Long-time AIDS Activist Offer Support
Calling attention to the plight of one million disabled Americans suffering with ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome), patient Robert Miller continues his hunger strike -- and it is gaining attention from a well-known journalist and a long-time HIV/AIDS activist, as well as an NBC affiliate in Nevada.
These new developments come as we wait for the Food and Drug Administration's decision, due Monday, Feb 4, 2013, on whether or not it will approve Ampligen, the first medication ever considered by the FDA for ME/CFS. This illness disables one million Americans, leaving many bedridden, homebound and suffering for decades on end with little hope for recovery and little help from the U.S. government, which dedicates a mere $6 million dollars each year to ME/CFS research.
First, well-known HIV/AIDS activist, Cleve Jones, founder of the AIDS quilt project, came out in support of ME/CFS patient Robert Miller's hunger strike. Mr. Jones writes: “My friend is on a hunger strike to get the first medicine approved for his severe case of chronic fatigue syndrome. FDA is likely to deny the drug this weekend. We know we wouldn’t be where we are today if some of us hadn’t protested inaction by federal agencies on AIDS treatments. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Urge FDA to approve Ampligen, so all CFS patients can have just one treatment option. CFS patients suffer without any treatments, and I can remember those days in my life. I urge Secretary Sebelius to approve Ampligen for CFS and apply what we learned with HIV about getting treatments to patients like every minute counts.”
Secondly, long-time Washington DC journalist, Llewellyn King, commented on ME/CFS sufferer Robert Miller's hunger strike on his PBS television program, "White House Chronicle." It is airing this weekend on PBS stations in Washington --Sunday, Feb. 3 at 9 a.m. on WETA, Channel 26; Sunday at 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on WHUT, Channel 32. It will air throughout the week on some 200 PBS and public, educational and governmental cable TV stations and worldwide on Voice of America Television. An audio version of the episode will air Saturday, Feb. 2 at 9:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Sirius XM Radio's POTUS (Politics of the United States) Channel 124. The episode will be posted on the "White House Chronicle" Web site, whchronicle.com, on Monday, Feb. 4.
Lastly, NBC's Reno, Nevada affiliate has covered the hunger strike: http://www.mynews4.com/news/local/story/Patients-fight-for-FDA-to-approve-drug-application/zuCxhkI0eUOiECmK_McvmA.cspx
Activist Rivka Solomon, a Boston-area playwright who has spent 23 years disabled by ME/CFS, much of it homebound and bedridden, states, "One million disabled Americans feel abandoned by their government for over two decades. They feel this can not continue and that they have no choice but to take extraordinary measures, such as a hunger strike, to get the help they need from the U.S. government. I support Robert Miller and other patients who are doing all they can to get us the medications we need to help us survive. We hope the FDA cares enough about its disabled citizens to approve Ampligen."
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