Thursday, August 6, 2009

Arthritis Drugs and Cancer

The headline in the Wall Street Journal (8.5.09) reads, “FDA Warns on Cancer Risk in Immune-System Drugs”. The article stated that the FDA declared there is an increased risk of lymphoma and other cancers associated with the arthritis drugs Remicade and Humira in children and adolescents.

These drugs work by neutralizing the biological activity of an inflammatory molecule known as tumor necrosis factor (i.e., TNFα). TNFα does have pro-inflammatory capabilities. However, tumor necrosis factor also regulates the immune system. It has been shown to induce apoptosis (or cell death) and to inhibit tumor growth and viral replication. When you look at the varied capabilities of this molecule, perhaps we should not be blocking it with drugs like Remicade and Humira.

When these drugs were first approved to treat arthritic conditions, I made a prediction at a lecture I was giving; within five to ten years of use, the rate of cancer would begin to rise in those that took this class of drugs. How could I make such a prediction? It wasn’t that hard. Looking at the mechanism of action of this class of drugs pointed out the potential problems with their long-term use.

When you inhibit tumor necrosis factor, which blocks programmed cell death (apoptosis), you should expect cancer rates to rise. In fact, inhibiting apoptosis is one of the major ways cancer cells survive and propagate. Furthermore, inhibiting a substance (TNFα) which helps to regulate the immune system by inhibiting tumor growth is bound to cause serious problems such as cancer.

The tumor necrosis factor inhibiting drugs are a top selling class of drugs in the U.S. bringing in over $6.5 billion in U.S. sales in 2008. It is not only cancer rates that are elevated with these drugs; increases in serious infections such as tuberculosis and serious liver injury have also been reported.

Tumor necrosing factor drugs (Remicade and Humira) should only be used as a last resort and used for the shortest time period possible. There are many other safe and effective natural therapies for treating arthritic disorders. More information about how to implement a holistic approach to treating arthritis can be found in my book, Overcoming Arthritis.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home