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CCFA news: "Cancer Risks to Remicade and Humira Explained"

June 22, 2006

This is the headline from a recent CCFA news post where they "explain" away the risks of drugs manufactured by two of their biggest sponsors--Centocor and Abbott.

Written in reaction to a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) article which noted that these drugs may cause "increased risk of cancer (lymphoma, skin, gastrointestinal, breast and lung) or serious infection", the CCFA says, "Don't worry, the risks outweigh the benefits."

It's arguable that the JAMA article downplays the side effects of these treatments. In a follow-up, JAMA disclosed that the authors of the article received compensation from Centocor. More relevant is a 2006 article from Digestive Diseases which notes that "long-term maintenance efficacy data [on these drugs] are lacking" and cautions:

"Crucial in the development of novel biological agents, however, is the benefit:risk ratio. As illustrated by unexpected but devastating brain infections with anti-adhesion molecules, clinicians should be aware that the powerful immunomodulatory capacity of biologicals necessitates a rigorous safety follow-up."* [boldface added]

*source: Digestive Diseases, Vol. 24, No. 1-2, 2006
Emerging biological treatments in inflammatory bowel diseases.
Van Assche G, Vermeire S, Rutgeerts P.Division of Gastroenterology, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.