Many Popular Medications Contain Cancer-Causing Compounds, May Increase Cancer Risks

medications_cancer_risksCancer is devastating, killing about 600,000 people every year. Cancer is, in fact, the second-leading cause of death in the United States. Yet, despite consumers’ proactive measures to avoid cancer-causing products, some pharmaceuticals might contain carcinogens, ameliorating the best consumer efforts.

Medications we routinely take may contain dangerous ingredients. Consider that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does mandate that pharmaceutical companies test their products for so-called “carcinogenicity” in animals, yet even if the drugs test positive for increased tumor risks, that does not automatically get those drugs rejected, according to The Gazette. In fact, those very drugs may end up making their way to market.

Take, for instance, hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Studies have made a  breast cancer link with the HRT estrogen-progestin combination and the FDA warns of this risk in its most serious warning—the black box, notes The Gazette. Diabetes drug, Actos (pioglitazone), was banned in France and Germany over increased risks of bladder cancer; U.S. prescribing information discusses bladder tumors in rat studies and bladder cancer in humans; and reports of bladder cancer and mounting litigation have done nothing to ban the drug in the U.S., which means people continue to be prescribed this controversial medication.

Dr. Thomas Marciniak, an FDA patient safety expert brought up a potential cancer risk linked to popular blood pressure medications called ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers), such as Benicar (olmesartan), Cozaar (losartan), and Diovan (valsartan). “The FDA needs to inform patients and physicians about the ARB lung-cancer risks. The FDA must act now,” Dr. Marciniak said in a message to high-ranking FDA officials, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report, wrote The Gazette. The agency said that, based on its 2011 analysis, there was no cancer increase and responded, “We have no reason to tell the public anything new.”

Prilosec (omeprazole), prescribed for the treatment of heartburn bears a notice concerning abnormal cell growth and stomach tumors (carcinoids) in rats, according to The Gazette. Skin creams for eczema (Elidel and Protopic) and the rheumatoid arthritis drugs Cimzia, Enbrel, Humira, and Remicade also warn of cancer.

Most recently, incretin mimetics, a class of Type 2 diabetes drugs, have sparked debate and are renewing concerns about health risks, especially to the pancreas. In fact, a piece published in the journal BMJ, states that the drugs, which include Byetta and Januvia, might be riskier than initially believed. The controversy involves associations between these Type 2 medications and increased risks for cancers, especially of cancer of the pancreas. In fact, more than 100 lawsuits representing 575 plaintiffs nationwide allege injury—typically pancreatitis—due to Byetta, according Bristol-Myers’ latest quarterly regulatory filing; 43 lawsuits claim that Januvia caused pancreatic cancer, according to Merck, wrote The New York Times. Pancreatitis is a known risk factor for pancreatic cancer.

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