The cancer drug Avastin already has a rap sheet as long as a San Quentin inmate; studies say it causes blood clots, stroke, eye inflammation, and heart attack. It also bears a dreaded black box warning because of a "suspected" link to gastrointestinal perforations. Now, a new report out of Stony Brook University in New York has confirmed that the drug does indeed cause potentially lethal holes in the colon, though it's often prescribed for advanced colon cancer.
Avastin belongs to a class of drugs known as anti-angiogenesics, which are used to block the blood supply to tumors. This study, which was published in The Lancet, found that the risk of developing holes in the gut was double for patients taking Avastin compared to those not taking the drug. Don't panic yet; doubling is not quite as bad as it sounds. We're only talking about a one-percent risk -- although earlier studies found that Avastin also doubles the risk of serious and potentially lethal cardiac problems for patients undergoing chemotherapy.
In the most recent study, the researchers reviewed case records of 12,300 cancer patients, including 6,490 who took Avastin. Although only one percent of the Avastin patients developed abdominal holes, the 65 who did were at a 22 percent risk of dying from the complication. Even patients who developed colon perforations but who didn't take Avastin had better outcomes, with an 18-percent death rate. Now, to be fair, 65 out of 6,490 doesn't necessarily sound so bad, but there's more to the story.
Avastin gets prescribed for a variety of cancers, especially colon cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, metastatic breast cancer and glioblastoma multiforme -- an incurable brain cancer. It should be noted, though, that although the FDA approved it for use in breast cancer, the FDA's own Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee recommended against approval of Avastin because the drug doesn't increase survival time and has such a deadly history, though it prolongs the time during which the cancer remains at earlier stages. How the drug gained approval in spite of not making it through committee is a feat that remains shrouded in mystery. As for the other cancers, studies have shown that it can increase survival times in lung cancer by a mere two months and brain cancer by several months. As for colorectal cancer, studies show that it doesn't reduce the risk of recurrence in colon cancer. It merely extends the time by about seven months before the original cancer gets worse. Now let's take a look at the numbers again. When you match a one percent risk of holes in the colon plus double the risk of cardiac events against marginal benefit, the numbers for Avastin suddenly look decidedly worse.
Although regulations call for stopping Avastin if perforations develop, research director Dr. Sanjaykumar Hapani cautions that such an approach may be unwise when so few treatment options exist.
"[Stopping treatment] might reduce the use of an otherwise effective drug in patients with metastatic cancer and very few treatment options," Dr. Hapani says, while calling for another study to see if low doses can safely be administered to patients once their perforations have healed. But what does he mean by "effective." Effective how? A few months extension on the original cancer, a marginal increase in survival time, and no reduction in the recurrence of the cancer!
Which makes clear just how desperate mainstream medicine is to do something, anything to combat "incurable" cancers. The FDA acknowledges that the drug has been the direct cause of death from various causes; its own advisory panel says the drug isn't worth the risk, and yet, the medical establishment apparently feels it's better to prescribe a known killer-drug than to do nothing. In addition to the risk of death, Avastin raises the risk of hypertension by 67 percent, of stomach pain by 61 percent, vomiting by 52 percent, upper respiratory infection by 47 percent, constipation by 40 percent, nosebleeds by 35 percent, and diarrhea by 34 percent (when administered in combo with chemotherapy, as opposed to just receiving chemotherapy).
Meanwhile, annual sales of Avastin remain at about $2.7 billion in the United States alone. (Well, we knew there had to be some positive numbers for Avastin to justify its use.) The bottom line is that a lot of money is being spent on a marginally effective and undeniably dangerous drug. For a more logical and benign approach to treating cancer, listen to this special report.