Medicines used to treat immune system diseases can pose life-threatening risks for children and young adults. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking into whether or not four drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and Crohn's disease lead to cancer and other dangerous infections in children.
The medications under investigation by the FDA are Enbrel, Remicade, Humira, and Cimzia. The potentially dangerous drugs, known as TNF-blockers, inhibit part of the immune system, and experts have known for years that they might increase the risk of cancer in adult patients. In the past 10 years, however, the FDA has received 30 reports of cancer in young patients who take the medications, and the agency is concerned about the health risks that the drugs pose to children and young adults.
Approximately half of the cancers that developed in children were lymphomas, including Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Research has found that adults treated with Humira or Remicade for rheumatoid arthritis have more than double the cancer rate of those who do not take the drugs. Remicide, Humira, and Enbrel are one of the most profitable classes of drugs ever created using biotechnology, with collective sales of more than $13 billion last year.