Blockbuster prescription drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions can increase the risk of potentially deadly cancer in children and teenagers, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA, which urged greater caution with so-called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers last September, said an analysis of 48 reported cancer cases in children using the drugs “showed an increased risk of cancer, occurring after 30 months of treatment on average.” Eleven of the reported cases were fatal, according to the FDA.
Anti-TNF drugs include Johnson & Johnson’s Simponi (golimumab) and its Remicade (infliximab); Abbott Laboratories’ Humira (adalimumab); UCB SA’s Cimzia (certolizumab pegol); and Amgen Inc. and Wyeth’s Enbrel (etanercept). As many of you will know, Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can strike young people, causing pain, stiffness and swelling. Reports indicate it affects about 20 million people worldwide. The referenced drugs are used to treat other inflammatory conditions, including the bowel disorder known as Crohn’s disease. The drugs already carry the strongest warnings possible about the risk of possible serious infections. The FDA says a new caution about cancer in younger patients will be added to the “black box” warning.
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