Drug for anaemic cancer patients raises death riskFebruary 27th, 2008 - 11:49 am ICT by admin
New York, Feb 27 (IANS) Drugs taken by millions of cancer patients to boost red blood cells when they become anaemic after chemotherapy actually raise their death risk, a new study has found. On March 13, the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee will meet in Gaithersburg, Maryland, to discuss the cumulative data, including the recent Feinberg study results, regarding the use of these drugs for cancer patients.
Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine research has shown that these drugs, called erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs), raise the patients’ death risk by stimulating cancer cell growth.
Analysis of 51 trials with 13,613 patients, the largest ever, reveals a 10 percent higher death risk among patients taking ESAs compared to those who don’t.
The Feinberg study also confirmed a previously known 57 percent increased risk of blood clots in the legs or lungs for cancer patients receiving ESAs.
The findings of the study, led by Charles Bennett, are being published in the latest issue of Journal of the American Medical Association.
In March 2007, the FDA issued a public health advisory on ESAs, warning of an increased risk of serious and life-threatening side effects.
FDA approved the ESAs erythropoietin and darbepoetin in 2003 as a treatment for anaemic cancer patients who wanted to avoid blood transfusions. However, evidence linking these drugs to a higher death risk has been mounting.
“It’s troubling that 15 years after the drug came out, we finally came to this realisation,” said Bennett, who is a haematologist and oncologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Bennett noted: “The later clinical trials were conducted to see if these drugs help people live longer. But, it turns out, this is not the case.”
ESAs produced up to $6 billion in cancer-anaemia related sales last year for pharmaceutical firms.
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