The drugs, erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (EPOs), can cause fatal cancers and heart problems, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report concluded last March. Its warning was based on a medical trial that discovered 222 patients out of 1,432 who were given EPO therapy suffered heart problems afterwards.
The drugs, which include Aranesp, Epogen and Procrit, are routinely given to patients who are anaemic following chronic renal failure, cancer, chemotherapy treatment, or HIV and AIDS.
A new report, presented to an FDA committee in the last few days, has discovered that not only are the drugs dangerous, they also do not improve a cancer patient's quality of life or survival.
Despite these concerns, EPO sales continue to flourish. In 2002, the latest year when figures were available, global sales reached $8.1bn (lb4.2bn), an increase of 18 per cent on the previous year.
And, with the substantial 'rebates' on offer, now we know why.
(Sources: New York Times, 9 May 2007; FDA website).
E-news broadcast 10 May 2007 No.358 [Subscribe]