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Many Prescription Drugs Available Under ‘Cancer Cloud’

Filed June 18th, 2013 Joshua Sophy

While federal health officials wrestle over what represents a cancer risk in prescription drugs, the people who take these sometimes very popular drugs face the unknown.

In a recent column from Joe and Teresa Graedon of King Features Syndicate service, it was noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) often balks at placing a cancer risk notice on a prescription drug’s safety label. And when the agency does decide to highlight some type of warning about a potential cancer risk associated with a drug, the semantics often leave physicians and the public confused more than anything else.

In the most recent example of this type confusion, the type 2 diabetes drug Actos has been banned in some European markets after a study positively linked it to bladder cancer. In the U.S., the drug is still available, and only recently did the FDA determine that taking the drug at high doses increased a person’s risk of developing bladder cancer. The drug’s safety label barely mentions the risk, only noting that it caused tumor growth in lab rats. In their column, the Graedons suggest: “The FDA doesn’t seem to know what to do about cancer concerns. Sometimes FDA staffers fight among themselves about cancer risks.”

There are many other drugs that exist under a “cancer cloud,” the columnists suggest. These drugs contain compounds that have been associated with cancer or cancer cell growth in previous studies but the FDA has been slow to react or interpret the information, or to gather new information.

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