(NaturalNews) The FDA has launched an investigation into whether a family of drugs, including medications for rheumatoid arthritis, might be causing cancer in children and young adults.
The drugs, known as TNF blockers, are immune suppressors that interfere with the functioning of an inflammation-causing chemical known as TNF. The TNF blockers under investigation include Remicade (generic name infliximab), Humira (generic name adalimumab) and Enbrel (generic name etanercept). A fourth TNF blocker, Cimzia (generic name certolizumab pegol), is not being investigated because it only received FDA approval in April 2008.
The FDA is studying 30 reported cases of cancer among children or young adults who were taking Enbrel, Humirea and Remicade between 1998 and April 29, 2008. The cancers seem to have appeared in children who were taking TNF blockers in combination with other immune-suppressing drugs. The most common was the blood cancer lymphoma, accounting for approximately 50 percent of reported cases.
"The reports of these events in children and young adults receiving TNF blockers are of concern and deserve further investigation," the FDA said.
TNF blockers are used to treat autoimmune disorders in which the body is attacked by its own immune system, and health problems caused by inflammation. These disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, plaque psoriasis and ulcerative colitis.
The drugs are major sellers for their manufacturers. Enbrel made $951 million for Wyeth and Amgen in the first quarter of 2008; Humira made Abbot Laboratories $878 million; and Remicade made $998 million for Johnson & Johnson.
As part of its investigation, the FDA has asked the four companies for all information on any reported cases of cancer among children and young adults receiving TNF blockers. Cimzia maker UCB is set to start a 10-year study into the drug's risks, including cancer, in 2009.
All four TNF blockers currently carry warning labels about the risk of cancer.