Irish agency alert to cancer treatment drug’s link to flesh-eating virus

The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) says it is “aware” of health concerns in Canada linking cancer treatment drug Avastin and a flesh-eating virus.

This week Health Canada warned that Avastin had been linked in rare cases to necrotising fasciitis. Two Canadians taking the drug developed the disease and one of them died.

The country’s health authorities issued the information in collaboration with the manufacturer, Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd.

In March, health authorities in the US also drew a link between the drug and the flesh-eating condition in rare cases.

In is understood Roche has identified 52 such cases globally in people using the drug between 1997 and 2012, during which time 17 people died.

However, in Canada as many as 7,000 patients are thought to take the drug every year, meaning the likelihood of necrotising fasciitis developing is 0.1%.

In a statement, the IMB said it was aware of the issue.

“This product is currently under review at European level, of which the IMB is participating,” it said.

“The IMB contributes to the evaluation of such reviews at EU level through its participation at the European Medicines Agency and its scientific committees and will provide further updates as additional information from ongoing research becomes available.

“As with all medicines with its EU counterparts through its participation at the EMA, seeks to establish a balance between the benefits a medicine offers a patient against the potential risks. If patients have any concerns he/she should discuss this with her doctor.”


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