Roark is not alone. In PNH patients treated with Soliris, half had stable hemoglobin levels over six months without needing a transfusion. In a control group of PNH patients who did not receive the drug, not a single one showed similar results. The dramatic changes Soliris has made in the lives of PNH sufferers earned the drug the Prix Galien U.S.A. 2008 Award for Best Biotechnology Product. The award is considered the industry’s highest accolade for pharmaceutical research and development.
“It’s certainly gratifying that a drug born in Oklahoma and at OMRF received this honor,” says OMRF President Prescott. “But what’s most gratifying is that our scientists’ work has changed the lives of patients suffering from a terrible disease.”
Roark’s life looks nothing like it did 18 months ago. “I’m a new person.” Still, she sees some silver linings to her struggle with illness. “The bad things that happen to us make us pause and take stock of what’s important in life. PNH did that for me.” And, she says, “it caused my faith to take a big leap forward.”
Before PNH, she hadn’t given much thought to medical research. “I was thankful for it, but I didn’t realize its importance.” But when a drug born at OMRF changed her life, she took notice. “I became very interested in the depth and breadth of research. Things like stem cells and bone marrow. I’d read every article I’d see in the paper.” And, she felt particularly blessed and proud that the research that saved her came not from afar, but from Oklahoma. “It was amazing. All of a sudden, I had a very close tie to OMRF.”
That unexpected tie, she says, has been transformative. No longer is every day uncertain. She’s looking forward to the holidays again, when she’ll cook and decorate and visit with her family. And when she goes to church every Sunday, she no longer asks for fellow congregants’ prayers. No, these days, she’s sending out all that positive energy to others. You know, the ones in need of help.
“To sum it up in a sentence, Soliris has given me my life back.” It’s a gift she never expected. But one for which she will never stop giving thanks.