Iressa Update: Feb 7, 2003
From: Sunday Times (Australia), Feb.7, 2003
167 deaths linked to cancer drug
THE number of deaths linked to side effects from a last-resort, cancer-fighting drug used in Japan has risen to 167.
A government official today updated the toll from the 124 acknowledged by the Japanese government in December.
Health ministry official Tatsuo Kurokawa said the increase was attributed to doctors reclassifying earlier deaths originally not linked to the drug Iressa's side effects.
He said the number of newly reported deaths had been on the decline since late December, when the government tightened its prescription guidelines.
Two deaths were reported among 10 patients developing side effects between December 27 and January 24.
Officials from the drug's maker, Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, were not available for comment.
AstraZeneca issued a safety warning to doctors in October after the company received reports of severe side effects causing debilitating lung injuries.
A total of 471 Japanese taking the drug have developed pneumonia or other lung disorders as a side effect, according to the company.
AstraZeneca describes Iressa as a last resort to be administered only to patients not responding to other treatments and whose cancer is at a very advanced stage.
The Japanese government approved the drug last July, but in October the Health Ministry issued a warning about potential side effects. A total of 23,500 cancer patients have taken Iressa since the drug was approved.