The Mice Got Cancer--Will You?
Updated: Jul 2, 2019
Pharmaceuticals have come a long way and many of them are now effectively treating, albeit off-label in some instances, disorders or diseases in which they were never seen as useful. There were many "voila" moments in their discovery.
This doesn't mean they were originally tested for these disorders, but, somehow, someone in a lab made an incredible discovery and it was off to the races with clinical trials. A new indication for the drug was a possibility and a breakthrough and that was marvelous news for consumers and researchers alike. Not all good news. With good news can come medication side effects that are not so good.
I remember working in a national protocol for a medication to treat Alzheimer's. The original indication for the drug? Treating pin worms in humans. It languished in laboratories because pin worms were no longer the scourge they once had been. Personal hygiene had cleaned that one up in more advanced countries. In the SDAT trials, not much changed in terms of cognition but a tiny side effect was noted in my travels around the US; social interactions initiated by patients. It was a good thing, indeed. Just saying, "Good morning," was a breakthrough. But that's as far as it went and patients continued their downward spiral.
Osteoporosis is another disturbing disorder as we grow older and finding a med for it can be beneficial and lucrative for drug companies. More information can be obtained at: https://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics. It is important whether you are a woman or a man that you inform yourself and ASK QUESTIONS.
Actors and persons in the entertainment field will sign contracts to provide, enthusiastically, advertisements for specific pharmaceutical products. When one, who was hawking one such product, dies, we have to wonder if the med did any good or not. The commercials then turn to others, not originally in the ad, with the ill-fated spokesperson.
Coming to this specific, and possibly understated, side effect of an osteoporosis med wasn't something I intended to prepare for a blog. But someone I know has had several medical issues which have led to prolonged long-term use of a steroid medication, prednisone.
As anyone in the medical profession will tell you, prednisone will mimic your body's production of a vital corticosteroid usually being pumped out by your adrenal glands. Take it for too long and it eats away at your bones and may put your adrenals to sleep or cause them to permanently shut off--some disagreement regarding the latter in the medical community here.
The eminent physician/rheumatism expert she consulted recommended one new drug, and he thought it might be a good choice. A member of the drug company's team would come to the home to instruct the patient on weekly self-injection. Cost would be about $600/month. Another drug, he said, would be a "bit dicey" getting approved by insurance since they wanted failure on several other drugs first--not an unusual move on the part of insurance.
A quick Google search, for this specific med and others, found that some drugs weren't indicated for anyone with an autoimmune disorder (arthritis is a very complex disorder) and arthritis is in this group. This is called "off-label use." Despite this, drugs meant for osteoporosis are used here. Do these drugs build up or maintain bone strength? Research it and find out.
What was one specific side effect in research with mice that stood out like a huge STOP sign in the road to recovery with the med this expert was suggesting? The mice developed various types of cancers, sometimes up to 60x the expected number. Not good news for anyone and a "black box" warning was placed on the drug packaging.
On his desk, along with several other goodies from drug companies, the expert had a huge auto-injector which he gladly demonstrated on himself. No, no injection, but a dummy syringe.
Other meds that were considered had problems with LFT (liver function test) values, making them somewhat dangerous to use and, again, not for anyone with an autoimmune disorder. Weekly blood tests would be needed for those.
The moral of the story? Read before agreeing. True the package inserts are in 6 pt. type or less and hard to read, but the internet can be your tutor on this. Allow that to happen before you agree and after you are fully informed, as you should be, before taking any med.