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FDA Reports New Risks Posed by Anemia Drugs
Date:1/3/2008

ous communications," Dr. Janet Woodcock, the FDA's deputy commissioner for scientific and medical programs, chief medical officer, and acting director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in the statement.

"FDA is reviewing these data and may take additional action. In the meantime, FDA recommends that health care providers review the risks and benefits of ESAs outlined in the product label and discuss this information with their patients."

According to the FDA statement:

  • On Nov. 30, Amgen Inc., manufacturer of the three ESAs -- Aranesp, Epogen, and Procrit -- provided the FDA with information from the 733-patient PREPARE study of women who received chemotherapy before undergoing surgery for breast cancer. After three years, 14 percent of the patients who received Aranesp to treat their anemia had died, compared to 9.8 percent who did not get the drug. Tumor growth was also faster in patients receiving Aranesp.
  • On Dec. 4, Amgen informed the FDA of the results of a study by the National Cancer Institute's Gynecologic Oncology Group of patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation for advanced cervical cancer. The patients were given either Procrit to maintain hemoglobin levels above 12 grams per deciliter of blood or blood transfusions as needed. After three years, 66 percent of the patients who did not take Procrit were alive and free of cancer growth, compared to 58 percent who had received the drug.

In announcing the label revision in November, Dr. John Jenkins, director of the FDA's Office of New Drugs, said, "We are emphasizing that ESAs should be used at the lowest dose necessary to avoid blood transfusions, since that is the only identifiable benefit for ESAs. Doctors should have discussions with their patients about whether to use ESAs at all."

The three drugs are synthetic versions of a protein made in the kidney that tells bone marrow to produce red blood c
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