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Anti-anaemia drugs may not be safe for myeloma patients

Posted Oct 07 2008 6:29pm

I had time this morning to glance at some older Science Daily articles, including this one, published in mid August, on a drug commonly used to treat anaemic cancer patients: http://tinyurl.com/474ptk. The article begins as follows: A recent study published in American Journal of Hematology demonstrated that Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs), a widely used drug to treat anemia, may have a negative impact on the survival of myeloma patients. Yikes.

ESAs are, for instance, drugs like Procrit, Epogen and Aranesp.

I am borderline anaemic but take no anti-anaemia drugs. Never have. But many myeloma patients do take these drugs and should be aware of this Greek study that evaluated myeloma patients over a period of 20 years. Those taking ESAs progressed more quickly and died sooner than those who did not:  The median survival rate was 31 months for patients who were administered ESAs, compared to 67 months in those who were not exposed to ESAsThe median progression-free survival for patients in the ESA group was 14 months, and 30 months for those without ESA exposure. Eh.

If I were taking ESAs, I would be concerned enough to quiz my health provider carefully about them. Even if these drugs were given to the sickest patients in the study, i.e., those who would have done poorly anyway, as indicated by a Mayo Clinic doctor quoted in the above-mentioned article, I always think it’s best to err on the side of caution. Just my opinion!

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