Drugs that Prevent Cancer are Being Ignored

This is Gina Kolata in The New York Times:

A large and rigorous study found that a generic drug, finasteride, costing about $2 a day, could prevent as many as 50,000 cases [of prostate cancer] each year. Another study found that finasteride’s close cousin, dutasteride, about $3.50 a day, has the same effect. Nevertheless, researchers say, the drugs that work are largely ignored.

[Also,] scientists have what they consider definitive evidence that two drugs can cut the risk of breast cancer in half. Women and doctors have pretty much ignored the findings.

Part of the problem is the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Although the two breast cancer drugs have been approved for such use by the FDA, the two prostate cancer prevention drugs have not. As a result, using them to deter prostate cancer is “off label” and because of that the National Cancer Institute is unable to promote them.


Source: Gina Kolata, The New York Times.

Comments (5)

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  1. Devon Herrick says:

    This is not surprising. We also know proper diet and exercise reduces the risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer. But many people don’t heed the advice. Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol also prolongs life but the drugs are often not taken according to guidelines. About half of people who start cholesterol or hypertensive drugs quite within a year.

  2. Joe S. says:

    This is a pretty amazing article. And you can’t blame the whole problem on the FDA. The two breast cancer drugs are “on label” — they’ve been approved for this use.

  3. Vicki says:

    What this means is that doctors are not doing their jobs.

  4. Larry C. says:

    This is a truly amazing article. It’s really hard to believe. What a tragedy!

  5. Linda Gorman says:

    In the FDA approval documents the most common adverse reactions related to finasteride were related to sexual function. Side effects included impotence and decreased libido. Some people are allergic to it and it can cause breast swelling in men.

    In an abstract of a 2003 review in the NEJM, Thompson et al. concluded that “finasteride prevents or delays the appearance of prostate cancer, but this possible benefit and a reduced risk of urinary problems must be weighted against sexual side effects and the increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer.

    Researchers can say this is ignored and that everyone should take the drug. People suffering the side effects might beg to disagree.