The FDA press release below is important to some men with prostate cancer. If you are currently taking Aranesp, Epogen or Procrit you should talk to your doctor about your risks and potential benefits.

FDA Strengthens Boxed Warnings, Approves Other Safety Labeling Changes for Erythropoiesis-Stimulating Agents (ESAs)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved revised boxed warnings and other safety-related product labeling changes for erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs), which treat certain types of anemia. These new statements address the risks that the drugs Aranesp, Epogen and Procrit pose to patients with cancer and patients with chronic kidney failure.

The labeling changes, which incorporate advice from FDA advisory committees and expand upon labeling changes made in March 2007, also include a statement that symptoms of anemia, fatigue and quality of life have not been shown to improve in patients with cancer who are treated with ESAs.

Epogen, Procrit and Aranesp are approved to treat anemia in patients with chronic kidney failure and anemia caused by chemotherapy in certain patients with cancer. Epogen and Procrit are also approved for use in certain patients with anemia who are scheduled to undergo major surgery to reduce blood transfusions during or shortly after surgery and for the treatment of anemia caused by zidovudine (AZT) therapy in HIV patients.

For Patients with Cancer

For patients with cancer, the new boxed warnings emphasize that ESAs caused tumor growth and shortened survival in patients with advanced breast, head and neck, lymphoid and non-small cell lung cancer when they received a dose that attempted to achieve a hemoglobin level of
12 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or greater.

The boxed warnings also emphasize that no clinical data are available to determine whether there is a similar risk of shortened survival or increased tumor growth for patients with cancer who receive an ESA dose that attempts to achieve a hemoglobin level of less than 12 g/dL. This is the hemoglobin level commonly achieved in clinical practice.

Health care providers determine whether a patient is anemic and decide on ESA dosing by measuring how much of the protein known as hemoglobin is present in a patient’s red blood cells.

An earlier boxed warning, approved in March, described the results of six studies demonstrating that survival was shorter and tumors progressed faster when ESAs were used to achieve hemoglobin levels of
12 g/dL or greater in cancer patients.

Today’s new boxed warning also clarifies that ESAs should only be used in patients with cancer when treating anemia specifically caused by chemotherapy and not for other causes of anemia. Moreover, it states that ESAs should be discontinued once the patient’s chemotherapy course has been completed.

“Health care professionals need to consider the risks of increased tumor progression and decreased survival in patients with cancer when prescribing ESAs,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., FDA’s deputy commissioner for scientific and medical programs, chief medical officer and acting director of its Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “ESAs should be used in patients with cancer only when their anemia is due to chemotherapy and only at the lowest dose necessary to avoid the need for blood transfusions.”

The FDA is working with the manufacturer to design and conduct clinical trials of different dosing regimens and tumor types to further characterize potential tumor progression associated with ESAs.

A replay of the stakeholder teleconference held on November 8, 2007 for the oncology community is available until November 18, 2007 by calling  866-386-1298.