Treatment of Protopic Eczema Due to Skin Cancer

Today, the producer of Protopic (tacrolimus) is facing hundreds of lawsuits. Protopic has been on the market as an eczema treatment for the past five years. Since their introduction about 5 years ago, both Protopic and the similar drug Elidel (pimecrolimus) have been prescribed to 7.5 million people, including children. These drugs are now a matter of concern as they could possibly cause skin cancer.

It wasn’t until January 2006 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned of the cancer risk. He instructed the manufacturer of Protopic and Elidel to include a warning black box on the product label against potential risks.

By this time, Protopic and Elidel were touted as wonder drugs for people with severe eczema. The advantage of these drugs was that they were steroid-free and hailed as a welcome relief for those who didn’t want to deal with the side effects of steroids.

Protopic and similarly Elidel can control the symptoms of eczema, which includes redness, itching, and inflammation. They can be used on almost all parts of the body, including the neck and face area. The recommended use of these creams was about twice a day for six weeks, or as directed by your doctor.

Cases of skin cancer and breast cancer resulting from the use of Protopic as an eczema treatment have been reported. The same goes for Elidel. More and more people are now realizing that both of these drugs are classified as immunosuppressants. This simply means that anyone taking this drug suffers from a number of diseases, including cancer, as a person’s immune system is relatively weakened.

Traci Reilly of Naperville, USA, thinks that two commonly prescribed drugs may be responsible for breast cancer. “I noticed a lump on my right breast, which is the exact area where I used the medicine.”

Reilly, 41, developed breast cancer after using Protopic and Elidel. She prescribed these medications for a condition called vitiligo that causes small discolored patches of skin on her body.

Vitiligo, a type of skin disease, can also be the first signs of skin cancer. It is characterized by a loss of skin pigmentation and can leave a milky white patch on the skin. (If you are using Elidel or Protopic for the treatment of eczema pain and you see such symptoms, stop your medication and contact your doctor immediately.)

Cases of lymphoma allegedly caused by Elidel have also been reported. Lymphoma is cancer of the tissues or lymph modes. Elaine Eklund was using Elidel to treat a rash on her face, and two weeks later she noticed a lump on her neck. He’s sure Elidel was the cause of the lymphoma.

Tom Moore, author of several books on the pharmaceutical industry, speaks out for these unfortunate cases. “There should have been warnings from the beginning,” he says.

He worked on approximately 1,200 suspected drug injury cases related to Protopic and Elidel reported to the FDA until 2005. Moore has discovered more than 100 potential cases of cancer in children and adults, although he believes the numbers should be higher unless many cases have been reported. Most of the 100 potential cases involve lymphoma or skin cancer, but it cannot be concluded that they are directly related to the drugs.

Moore cited a 2005 FDA report on animals given high doses of Protopic. In one study, monkeys developed cancer after taking the oral form of Protopic. The animal study also showed that cancer rates increased as the dose of Protopic used increased. As more drug injury cases were reported, the FDA issued the requirement for a black box warning.

Longer-term cancer studies involving the topical forms of both drugs are ongoing. However, as the FDA points out, human studies could take a decade or more. So if you want to continue using Protopic or Elidel as an eczema treatment, be aware of the cancer risks. It is strongly recommended that you do not use these drugs if you have a weak immune system or for infants or children younger than 2 years old.

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