FDA: Arthritis Drugs Pose Cancer Risk To Children

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators on Tuesday added stronger warnings to a group of best-selling drugs used to treat arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, saying they can increase the risk of cancer in children and adolescents.

After more than a year of review, Food and Drug Administration scientists said the drugs appear to increase the risk of cancer after they are used beyond 2 1/2 years. The agency studied several dozen reports of cancer in children taking the drugs, some of which were fatal. Half of the cases were lymphomas, a cancer that attacks the immune system.

Read More: The New York Times Article

The drugs which will carry a bolstered “black box” warning include: Humira, Remicade, Simponi, Enbrel, and Cimizia.

A few weeks back I wrote about the biologics exclusivity legislation that is currently moving through the U.S. Congress: The Battle Over Biologics.

Articles like the one shown above are yet one more reason to support Rep. Henry Waxman’s H.R. 1427: Promoting Innovation and Access to Life Saving Medicine Act. This legislation specifically calls for additional testing anytime a biologic response modifier drug is introduced for pediatric use.

The other version of this bill by Rep. Anna Eshoo, which benefits the biotech industry more than the consumer, continues to move forward. Just last week the House Energy and Commerce Committe voted 47-11 to grant the biotech industry the 12 year exclusivity period which they are seeking. Plus, Eshoo’s legislation actually allows for the following types of testing to be waived: analytical studies, animal studies, and clinical studies.

3 Comments
3 comments
  1. Robin says:

    Thank you for sharing this article. It means a lot to me because I have a relevant personal story. I want to share it even though it’s kind of a downer because I want people to realize how dangerous these drugs are. Don’t take them! (Now the Arthritis Foundation is going to come kidnap me). Anyway, I used to take the drug Enbrel. I was on it for 2 years when I came down with mono and a seriously elevated white blood cell level. My anemia was so bad that my mom was already promising she would be the transfusion donor. I was in bed for 9 weeks and I was finally referred to John’s Hopkins by my hematologist. I had LGL…large granular lymphocysts, the step before everything turns into lymphoma basically. That’s when I realized how powerful the drugs are and decided I had to find a way to live without them. I was off Enbrel for a year and my blood is back to normal thankfully :) Please be careful giving your children these drugs!

  2. cateepoo says:

    This is scary! When my daughter was an infant, she had severe eczema. I was nervous about putting her on meds or ointments because of course with every medication comes side effects which you don’t want for your little one. Finally, we went with an ointment that was supposed to be the “safest” thing for children under two. We tried it for a while, but it didn’t work. Later, the “black box” was put on it because it too increased the risks of cancer. Luckily it didn’t work for us where we used it long term. Finally, when she was six, we took her off gluten. The eczema improved 100%. If only I had known.

  3. Helen says:

    I take Enbrel, and have been taking it for nearly 6 years. Without it, I can barely function. With it, along with a healthy diet and lifestyle, I am able to live a very full and active life.

    I made the decision to take this medication knowing that there are risks, and I think this is something we should all have the right to do without judgment. It is, for me, a question of weighing the present definite quality of life benefits against the possible future risks. I have chosen to continue to take Enbrel because it allows me to do all the other things that contribute to my good health – exercise, cook healthy meals for myself, participate in the social and academic/career activities that make me happy and make me feel positive about the future. And especially with my heart condition, I need to be able to exercise to keep my heart strong. This is my choice, and it’s one I’m happy with. It is not the right choice for everyone, but we all deserve the right to make the decision ourselves.

    Yes, I am at a slightly elevated risk for cancer. But I’m also at risk of getting hit by a bus, falling down the stairs, or developing cancer anyway. If I’m unable to dress myself, brush my hair or cook my dinner without Enbrel, I’m at risk of depression, obesity, and a great many other things. Every day, we make choices that put ourselves at risk in the service of a greater benefit. It is impossible to live risk-free.

    We hear so many negative stories about medications of all sorts, and I’m not denying that these exist. But the truth is that there are positive stories as well, like mine.

    Where young children are concerned, it is an even more agonizing decision for parents. I was 2 years old when I was diagnosed with arthritis. I can’t imagine how frightening it was for my parents. At the time, drugs like Enbrel weren’t around, so my parents thankfully didn’t have to make that choice for me. But I know that if they had, and if they had decided to give a drug like Enbrel a try, it would have been a decision made in my best interests and not without a great deal of thought.

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