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immunosuppressant used to treat severe plaque psoriasis, caught
the attention of the FDA as triggering the activation of the John Cunningham virus. Present in 70%
to 90% of human beings, the virus, once activated, inflames the white matter of
the brain – a condition known as progressive multifocal
leukoencephalitis (PML) – which has no cure and is almost always fatal.
Although the FDA recognized the link between Raptiva and PML last autumn, it
wasn’t until last month that Genentech, the manufacturers of
the drug, issued a voluntary
withdrawal, and even then, are still allowing people who use Raptiva to continue
to get refills until June 8.