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Health Canada warns of life-threatening heart side effects from thyroid cancer drug Caprelsa

Filed February 17th, 2012 Joshua Sophy

Health officials in Canada are warning the public about the risk of abnormal heart rhythms while taking the thyroid cancer drug Caprelsa (vandetanib).

In its warning statement issued this week, Health Canada indicates it supports recent studies which show that Caprelsa can cause a severely abnormal heart rhythm. In many cases, the severity of the change in heart rhythm can be fatal, especially if it goes untreated. The agency also noted that the drug it recently approved as a treatment for medullary thyroid cancer for adults can also cause skin rashes and other conditions, diarrhea, increased blood pressure and vision problems.

Patients who have been prescribed Caprelsa have reported these side effects. Prescriptions for the drug are exclusive. Only patients enrolled in the country’s Restricted Distribution Program may receive Caprelsa. Physicians who prescribe it must have completed a certification program and must have prior experience in dispensing cancer prevention drugs.

Caprelsa is only prescribed in the treatment of thyroid cancer when a malignant tumor can not be removed surgically.

The makers of the drug, AstraZeneca Canada, has informed physicians and regulators of this risk of side effects, specifically highlighting the risk of abnormal heart rhythm, in a recent letter.

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