BREAST CANCER TREATMENT: Herceptin Linked to 15 Deaths
The breast cancer drug Herceptin has been linked to 15 deaths and 47 other serious reactions in patients, including allergic shock and extreme respiratory distress, according to a letter sent last week from manufacturer Genentech to physicians. The San Francisco-based company warned physicians to exercise caution in using the drug on patients with advanced lung disease whose cancer has not responded to several trials of chemotherapy. Such severe reactions did not occur in clinical trials before the FDA approved the drug in 1998, and the FDA is working with Genentech to amend the drug's label. Despite these warnings, an FDA official said Herceptin is still considered safe. Genentech estimates that about 23,000 patients have received Herceptin, an antibody that blocks excess copies of the HER2 gene, preventing breast cells from reproducing rapidly (Seyfer, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.