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Herceptin cancer drug causes heart damage in 28 percent of patients

Tuesday, August 15, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: Herceptin, drug marketing, junk science

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(NewsTarget) A new study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has found that the cancer drug Herceptin causes heart damage in 28 percent of its users.

A team of researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center studied 173 patients with advanced breast cancer who had been taking Herceptin -- sometimes called Trastuzumab -- for a year. Each patient received an initial cardiac assessment and was followed for 32 months.

The researchers discovered that 49 of the patients -- 28 percent -- suffered some form of heart damage while on the drug, most experiencing damage that could lead to heart failure. One woman died because of such heart failure. In addition, 31 of those patients suffered heart damage while taking only Herceptin, while the other 18 were taking the drug combined with chemotherapy.

Heart function improved in 46 of the 49 patients with heart damage when Herceptin treatment was stopped and common heart drugs such as ACE inhibitors or beta-blockers were started.

"What's so astonishing about this finding," said Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate and frequent critic of dangerous drugs, "is not only that the drug apparently harms such a huge percentage of patients, but also that the drug's maker and the mainstream media are claiming this is no big deal. Can you imagine the national outcry if an herb harmed 28 percent of its users?"

The researchers recommend that advanced breast cancer patients have a cardiac assessment before and during treatment with Herceptin. The study did not examine patients with early-stage breast cancer.

Critics of conventional cancer treatments such as Herceptin say that herbal remedies for cancer would be quickly pulled from the market if they harmed 28 percent of patients, but Herceptin and other potentially toxic treatments are allowed to remain on the market in spite of dangerous side effects because they make money for pharmaceutical companies.

"What else is astonishing about Herceptin," added Mike Adams, "is that clinical trials show it only helps a tiny fraction of patients avoid breast cancer. One study showed that only 0.6 percent of patients were helped by the drug. Given the 28 percent rate of harm revealed today, this means the drug appears to harm 46 times as many people as it helps. And yet Herceptin remains one of the most widely-hyped drugs in the history of Big Pharma."

"Scientific skepticism is ancient history in modern medicine," Adams added.


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