Cancer risks detailed for rheumatoid arthritis drugs

Rheumatoid arthritis patients taking Humira or Remicade face triple the risk of developing several kinds of cancer and double the risk of getting serious infections, a study led by the Mayo Clinic found.

The analysis builds on previous reports about the risks associated with Abbott Laboratories' Humira and Centocor's Remicade. But the earlier research focused mostly on one kind of cancer lymphoma  and infections such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.

The new study found an apparent link to other cancers, too, including skin, gastrointestinal, breast and lung tumors. It also quantifies the risks and says high doses appear to be the riskiest.

While the drugs' packaging information mentions some of the risks, the manufacturers said the new study does not prove that the medication is at fault, and they said the research was flawed.

Study co-author Dr. Eric Matteson, a Mayo Clinic rheumatologist, stressed the overall chances of developing cancer while using these drugs is still small. The researchers also noted that the medications' benefits include improving flexibility and range of movement, easing pain and increasing life expectancy, which arthritis can shorten.

In addition, the researchers noted that the risks for individual patients probably vary widely. Older, sicker people who have taken the drugs for several years probably face the highest risks, they said.

Still, the researchers said patients should be made aware of the dangers and told to seek medical help if they develop fevers, coughs or other symptoms of infection. They should also be sure to undergo the cancer screenings recommended for the general public, the researchers said, reports AP.

O.Ch.