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A Drug As Scary As Halloween; Blockbuster Drug Causes Cancer, Tuberculosis And Lethal Infections

By       Message Martha Rosenberg       (Page 2 of 3 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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Sure, Humira is expensive, Joel M. Kremer, MD, an Abbott consultant, told the New York Times in 2008 but there are unrecognized social burdens. "Inadequately treated rheumatoid arthritis typically leads to multiple joint replacements, lost productivity, lost tax revenue and a greatly diminished quality of life, as well as an increased risk of life-threatening infections and cardiovascular disease," he said. "You have to consider what it costs to fix a bridge against what it will cost when the bridge collapses."


In Reviews in Gastroenterological Disorders in 2007, Abbott consultant Stephen Hanauer, MD echoed the cheaper-to-treat argument. Humira treatment reduces "overall costs" and enhances "patients' quality of life," he says.


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But is it really cheaper to give patients Humira when they could use less expensive and dangerous drugs that don't suppress the immune system?


The Cochrane Collaboration, an international, not-for-profit drug review organization says, "Overall, in the short term biologics were associated with significantly higher rates of total adverse events, withdrawals due to adverse events and TB reactivation," and stresses that, "There is an urgent need for more research regarding the long-term safety of biologics and the comparative safety of different biologics."

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In 2008, the FDA announced that 45 people died from fungal diseases from taking Humira, Enbrel, Remicade and Cimzia--20 percent of those who got sick! People who lived near the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys were especially at risk. The same year, the FDA investigated Humira for thirty reports of childhood cancer and its links to lymphoma, leukemia and melanoma in children. Yes, lymphoma.


This year, the FDA warned that Humira can cause, "a rare cancer of white blood cells," in young people and five patients died during Humira trials in Italy. table. In the October 5 JAMA, an article warns that "potentially fatal Legionella and Listeria infections are the latest opportunistic infections to be added to the boxed warning for medications that block tumor necrosis factor (TNF)," such as Humira. The FDA's Adverse Events Reporting System discloses 80 cases of Legionella and 14 deaths and 26 cases of Listeria and 7 deaths in people on TNF blockers. Other articles, this year, link drugs like Humira to heart problems.


Still, the Humira's spin machine is humming as Abbott prepares to found an entire company on the blockbuster drug. An investigator with the Italian trials called the deaths "bad luck" and not necessarily Humira-related. (Trials were not stopped.) An avalanche of Pharma planted articles dispute the heart findings. And Abbott is seeking approvals to market Humira for ulcerative colitis and pediatric Crohn's disease.

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Maybe there will be free samples.


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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)

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