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Ed Yeates ReportingUtah doctors say too many patients are panicking over a study suggesting that two popular eczema treatments may increase the risk for cancer. The FDA may require its strongest black box warning on the products, even though the study at this point suggests only a "theoretical" link.
Eczema is an itchy, scaly, red, inflammatory condition of the skin that afflicts about 15 million adults and children. Since their approval, the FDA estimates more than 12 million prescriptions have been written for the topical creams Elidel and Protopic, which work very well clearing up not just eczema, but other skin disorders as well.
Active ingredients resemble those in a drug called Cyclosporin. Like that anti-rejection compound used on transplant patients, the creams dampen the body's over reactive immune response topically, clearing up skin conditions without the need for steroids. Brian Williams, M.D., Dermatologist: "They have many more known side effects. Steroids have been around for years. We know what they do. We know that in higher potencies we can get thinning of the skin, we can increase blood pressure, we can increase blood sugars."
But Dr. Brian Williams says dermatologists have seen none of those side effects in these new non-steroidal topical creams. Yet when high doses were given to animals, researchers saw an increased risk of skin cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Again, we're talking about a big difference between the amount given experimentally to animals and the dose given topically to humans.
Dr. Williams: “The dosing you're getting with that is about 30 times less than the dosing they would have given to the animal."
And animals were given the compound orally, not topically on the skin. Dermatologists, like many other physicians, fear paranoia now over "theoretical" risks is becoming all too pervasive, indicting medications before all the facts are in.
Dr. Williams: “If you don’t look at the facts behind the paper you’ll be afraid.”
The manufacturers of these two creams have agreed to conduct additional research for the FDA to find out if there really is an "actual" risk to humans, and if so to what extent.