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Drugs for Enlarged Prostate May Raise Risk of Aggressive Cancer
Date:6/10/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 9 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is calling for new warning labels on a class of drugs used primarily to treat enlarged prostates, because the medications may raise the risk of developing an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

In a statement released Thursday, the agency said the drugs involved include popular medications sold under the brand names Proscar and Propecia (sold by Merck & Co.) and Avodart and Jalyn (sold by GlaxoSmithKline).

According to the FDA, almost 5 million men were prescribed one of these medications between 2002 and 2009. Of these, nearly 3 million men were between the ages of 50 and 79.

The agency is advising doctors not to start patients on these drugs until prostate cancer -- which can mimic the symptoms of an enlarged prostate -- and other urological conditions have been ruled out.

According to the agency, this new warning is based on the results of two large prostate cancer trials.

Although these trials did not include Propecia, which is prescribed to treat hair loss in men, its label is also being updated. However, the FDA said "the applicability of the Avodart and Proscar studies to Propecia, is currently unknown."

All of these drugs are part of a class of medications called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors (5-ARI). According to the FDA, Proscar, Avodart and Jalyn are approved to treat symptoms of enlarged prostate, while Proscar and Avodart are also approved to reduce the risk of urinary retention or surgery related to an enlarged prostate. Propecia is a lower-dose version of Proscar.

Merck issued a statement Thursday on the FDA ruling.

"Merck stands behind the demonstrated safety and efficacy of Proscar [finasteride, 5mg] and Propecia [finasteride, 1mg]. Both products have been prescribed to millions of men, with Proscar prescribed to those suffering from benign prostatic
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