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Weekly Drug News Round Up - June 6, 2012

Shortage of Key Cancer Drugs Still Looming

Although shortages of certain oncology drugs are declining, some crucial drugs are still in short supply Read More...

At this week’s American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago, personal anecdotes were given by cancer patients who have had to deal with shortages of their chemotherapy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been successful in helping to resolve and prevent drug shortages in recent months, but 22 oncology therapies are still in short supply, including preservative-free methotrexate, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), and paclitaxel. Cancer drugs shortages typically occur with cheaper, generic, sterile injectable drugs that may only have one or two manufacturers. Many smaller treatment centers may not have the buying clout of large academic medical centers and often feel the pinch of these drug shortages.

Ginseng Relieves Fatigue in Some Breast Cancer Patients: Study

The herbal supplement ginseng relieved fatigue in cancer patients, but effect may take up to 8 weeks Read More...

Cancer patients commonly suffer from fatigue, and may report being "worn out", "sluggish” or “tired”. A study conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation reports that 2,000 milligrams of ground pure American ginseng root improved symptoms of fatigue in breast cancer patients after 8 weeks of treatment. A 20-point improvement on the 100-point fatigue scale was reported. Researchers noted that ginseng had no side effects, and would be more affordable than prescription drugs used to treat fatigue. The mechanism of how ginseng relieves fatigue is not known.

Absolute Risk of Bladder Cancer With Actos Is Low: Study

Although the absolute risk is low, taking Actos for two years may double the risk of developing bladder cancer Read More...

The Actos package insert currently warns about bladder cancer as a side effect due to long-term use. In a retrospective cohort study evaluating the risk of bladder cancer with use of Actos (pioglitazone), data was collected on roughly 116,000 type 2 diabetic patients newly started on oral antidiabetic agents. Bladder cancer was diagnosed in 470 patients who had taken pioglitazone in 5 years of follow-up. The absolute risk was low, with 89 cases among 100,000 people who had taken the drug. In the general population, the normal rate of bladder cancer is roughly 75 cases per 100,000. However, high cumulative pioglitazone doses (28,000 milligrams or more) over a 2-year period were associated with a higher rate of bladder cancer (137 cases per 100,000 people).

Avoid Teething Anesthetic Benzocaine in Children Under 2 Years

Local anesthetic benzocaine may lead to rare blood disorder Read More...

Over-the-counter products that contain benzocaine for teething pain may result in a rare, and potentially fatal disorder known as methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder in which methemoglobin instead of hemoglobin is produced, and inadequate amounts of oxygen are released to the body tissues. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that caregivers avoid products containing the local anesthetic benzocaine in children younger than 2 years of age. Common teething topical anesthetics, such as Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel and Orabase, contain benzocaine. Symptoms of methemoglobinemia may include pale or blue-colored skin, lips and nail beds, shortness of breath, confusion, and rapid heart rate.

Ketamine Shown To Have Benefits In Severe Depression, PTSD

General anesthetic ketamine shown to halt severe depression and suicidal thoughts in a matter of hours Read More...

A new class of antidepressants on the horizon? Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine are reporting on rapid-acting antidepressant effects with the anesthetic ketamine. When given intravenously at low doses, ketamine has been shown to lift severe depression within hours for 7 to 10 days. Researchers are now investigating ketamine use in post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) and alcoholism. The ketamine mechanism is different than the serotonin antidepressants (SSRIs) and instead works on the glutamate system involved in mood and memory, blocking the N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor. No serious ketamine side effects have been reported in these new investigations, but ketamine can cause hallucinations and has been abused as a street drug known as “Special K”.

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