Elaine Hollingsworth put Aldara on her nose thinking that it was the "benign salve" that her dermatologist made it out to be; instead, it was the beginning of her nightmare. After using the pharmaceutical skin cancer treatment for only two weeks, a "disgusting, thick, crusty, black scab" covered her entire nose, not just the one-quarter-inch on which she applied the cream -- and this wasn't even the worst side effect.
Around the same time her nose became covered with the scab, Hollingsworth awoke early one morning with a case of anaphylactic shock. "My throat was so swollen that it felt as if two tennis balls were lodged in it; my ears were throbbing; my nose was dreadfully swollen; and I could barely breathe or swallow," she writes in "Aldara: The Skin Cancer 'Cure' that Can Kill," an article that appears in the May 2006 issue of the Townsend Letter. Hollingsworth could have died from the severe allergic reaction. She was lucky that she had someone to drive her to the hospital.
But even that nearly fatal experience was not the end of her Aldara troubles.
"I was extremely ill for two weeks afterwards," she writes, "and for months, the skin all over my body burned as if I'd been in a fire, and my back was covered in bleeding, itching sores. I've learned since that my other symptoms -- memory loss, diminished eyesight, low-level headaches, dizziness, and extreme, unexplained weight loss -- are common to many Aldara victims."
Hollingsworth is right; these side effects are common, some would say too common, among Aldara users. As much as 3M Pharmaceuticals likes to tout "slight flu-like symptoms" as its drug's only side effect, many consumers have come forward to Hollingsworth and other vocal Aldara users, expressing similar horrific experiences in emails to her. "I have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Graves Basedow disease. My doctor said it's 99-percent certain that my diseases are due to that cream, Aldara," a 25-year-old Turkish woman wrote to Hollingsworth.
How can a doctor be 99 percent certain that Aldara is to blame? The problem stems from Aldara's active ingredient, imiquimod (IQ). 3M reports that its cream helps cure skin cancer by stimulating the immune system's response, thereby helping it to fight cancerous cells. Unfortunately, IQ disrupts cytokine activity in the process and also attacks the body's mucus membrane tissue. Cytokines are a major component of the immune system's communication centers. When this communication system becomes disrupted by something such as IQ, it can result in autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease, as well as inflammation in general.
In addition to this cytokine dysfunction, clinical research shows that Aldara attacks and destroys the delicate mucus membranes that line and protect the brain, eyes, nose, mouth, lips, throat, intestinal lining, vagina and rectum. When these membranes cannot effectively produce mucus, damage occurs in the tissues they are supposed to protect.
Richard Beasley experienced this damage firsthand. In 2000, he began taking Aldara, believing that it would cure a cancerous lesion on his forehead. Instead of curing his cancer, Beasley believes Aldara caused him a number of health problems, all of which the Texan espouses on his website. He writes:
"The cytokine activity, plus the imiquimod molecules that reached my blood circulation, damaged the lining and villi inside my stomach and small intestine, and damaged my colon. Because of this, I developed irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease, with resultant loss of nutrient absorption. This created frightening weight loss, which all my doctors told me was caused by the gross cytokine activity all over my body. I developed nerve damage, my tear ducts and sinus membranes were destroyed, I have lost 35 percent of my hearing and, worst of all, I ended up with Parkinson's Disease, and my brain has been seriously damaged."
After Aldara victim received settlement from 3M, the company tried to silence his opinions
In 2002, Beasley sued 3M Pharmaceuticals in federal court on the grounds that Aldara was causing these health problems. Only weeks before the trial, 3M privately settled with Beasley and he thought he was done with 3M -- until the Aldara1.com web site
caught 3M's attention. The company felt he was disclosing documents that were given to him as part of the court case, but were to remain private after the settlement. So in 2004, 3M took Beasley to court. "We were under the impression (Beasley) was in the process of trying to violate the protective order," said 3M
spokeswoman Jacqueline Berry. The judge ruled in Beasley's favor, denying 3M's motion that he was violating the order.
In addition to 3M, Beasley's website attracted a lot of attention from consumers who experienced similar side effects. He has played a tremendous role in raising public alarm about Aldara, the drug that its makers, the FDA and many dermatologists consider a "benign" skin cancer treatment that offers a favorable alternative to surgery. Luckily, some dermatologists recognize the risk posed by Aldara, especially when it is applied to an open lesion, which then allows the drug to easily access the bloodstream. "In my opinion, based on my observations and research, Aldara should be classified as criminally dangerous material if used on any open or potentially open skin area," says prominent cancer specialist Dr. Michael Tait.
If your dermatologist prescribes Aldara to you, learn more about the drug before you fill your prescription. Hollingsworth and Beasley, among many other consumers, are still experiencing horrible health problems that they believe stem from their Aldara treatment. For more information on Aldara, including important scientific documents, see Beasley's website, Aldara1.com. He has compiled a wealth of scientific information. You can also visit Hollingsworth's website, DoctorsAreDangerous.com and read testimonials of people who have also used Aldara and experienced negative effects.
If you have been treated with Aldara and experienced health problems that you believe were caused by Aldara, Hollingsworth invites you to send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org. By sharing your experiences, you can help others before they fill a prescription they might regret.