Patients with the bleeding disorder called immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) harbor antibodies that sabotage production of the platelets responsible for proper blood clotting. ITP patients often feel fatigued and bruise so easily that they look battered. The most common treatment is a regimen of harsh steroids to suppress the rogue antibodies. Some patients have their spleens removed to relieve the aberrant immune reaction. These therapies leave patients susceptible to serious medical problems.
Scientists now report that ITP patients may soon be able to boost their platelet production with fewer side effects, thanks to two oral drugs that are nearing the end of clinical trials. Two other drugs in earlier testing also show promise, researchers reported in December 2006 at a meeting of the American Society of Hematology in Orlando, Fla.