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RA Drug Link to Blood Cancer Found

Just as all the furor over Vioxx being taken off the market seemed to be dying down, drug maker Johnson & Johnson issued a warning today that patients taking its rheumatoid arthritis medication Remicade may experience a higher risk of lymphoma, a blood cancer.

About 19 months ago on my site, I reported FDA had solicited an advisory panel's advice about studying the problem and including a warning on the drug's label. Even considering the current disaster that is the modern health care system, it's appalling but not terribly surprising it's taken this long for a drug company to react.

As a result, Remicade's label will be revised to warn of a three-fold increase in the risk of lymphoma for rheumatoid arthritis patients taking the drug. The change means the drug's safety profile will be more closely aligned with that of rival drugs in the same class: Amgen's Enbrel and Abbott's Humira. All three drugs block an inflammation-causing protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF).

This is SECOND TIME in three months Remicade's label has been changed. In August, Johnson & Johnson added the risk of certain blood-related disorders such as leukopenia, in which the white blood cell count is too low, and thrombocytopenia, when blood platelets are too low.

Here's possibly the real reason the label change took so long: TNF blockers have been among the most successful of all biotechnology drugs, with combined sales of $4.1 billion in 2003, and those sales show no sign of slowing.

U.S. health officials in August said 12 Californians who had taken Remicade or Enbrel had tested positive for tuberculosis. Two of those infected died, and a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) said that as the use of these blocking agents expands, associated cases of TB might increase.

Remember that you don't need these potentially deadly drugs to help you fight rheumatoid arthritis. There are a number of very effective therapies that I have used to help thousands of patients with RA go into remission -- without expensive drugs like Remicade.

  • Following my nutrition plan is profoundly helpful for normalizing the immune system.

Yahoo News October 8, 2004

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