Cystic Fibrosis Patients on 'Grey's Anatomy' Got a Bum Deal

doctors and patient cystic fibrosisThe most tragic love story most of us have ingrained in our memories is Romeo and Juliet. Not a tale of two cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. Well, at least that was most likely the case until last night ...

Grey's Anatomy might just be a primetime drama, but it sure has a way of turning our attention to tragic medical situations that would otherwise fly under the radar. The most recent episode featured a couple who both suffered from cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive tract. Two CF patients in a relationship is a no-no to the medical community. That's because they both carry dangerous bacteria that can kill the other. Scary stuff.

It seems like the Grey's writers had some interesting timing with this episode, because now there's new hope for CF ...


Apparently, there's a new drug in the pipeline called VX-770, which is a pill that targets the defective protein that causes cystic fibrosis. So, in other words, it treats the root cause. How about that?? Most Rx drugs really just mask your symptoms! But the caveat is that the drug will only be effective in 4 percent of CF patients, because it treats a rare form of the disease. That really is such a bummer! 

But I guess the good news is that they're hoping this drug could potentially be paired with another or somehow lead to a cure for more CF patients. At the very least, it's good to know they're working on it.

The Grey's plot got me thinking ... I also watch Parenthood, and if you do, too, you know that one of the kids on the show, Max, is autistic. There's a lot in the show on how Max's parents cope, and one way is by talking to and bonding with other parents of autistic children over gluten-free baking, rigorous scheduling, and stickers as rewards. Max also gets to play with other autistic children.

So, it's especially heartbreaking to think that CF patients can't get the support they need from others who are going through the same thing. They're actually advised not to have physical contact (kissing or even hand-shaking) and prolonged close contact (kids can't play together or take a car ride together), and groups of CF families shouldn't sit down to eat together or sit in a meeting room for any duration of time. Well ... thank God for the Internet, right? (Of course, it's not the same.)

Hopefully modern medicine can figure this out, because there's nothing like being able to lean on the shoulder of someone who really understands what you're going through.

What did you think about the Grey's CF plot?


Image via Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

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