It is always better to deal with the known devil than invoke an unknown devil. Eczema or psoriasis are skin conditions that cause irritability, inflammations, itching, redness and a completely awkward state of mind to the patient. True, they can be embarrassing socially, even in front of friends and family. But, they are not as life-threatening as skin cancer or lymphoma. Yes, Protopic, a topical cream used in the treatment of eczema and psoriasis, can pose threat of cancer to patients.
What is Protopic used for? Protopic is a topical cream containing tacrolimus. An immunosuppressant, it works by reducing the inappropriate activity of the body’s immune system, which in turn leads to development of skin conditions like atopic dermatitis or eczema. The drug relieves one of the itch of skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis and it is better than corticosteroid lotions at the job. However, the drug can pose serious and fatal side effects in a patient. Of the side effects, the most life-threatening one is cancer.
Cancer-risks of Protopic: Protopic is a successful topical cream like Elidel, its competitor and counterpart in the market. The two creams are highly advantageous and cure any severe state of atopic dermatitis. However, only recently, news about their cancer-risks have reached people. Though it has not been clinically proved that Protopic causes cancer, certain reasons and situations throw light of the possible risks of cancer the drug may inflict on the user:
1. FDA’s black box warning: Though FDA approved Protopic in the year 2000, in 2005 it began receiving reports of lymphomas and skin cancers as a result of taking the drug. Research presented by the Pediatric Advisory committee of the FDA reported about 25 cases that have developed skin cancer and lymph node cancer after using the drug. Elidel, a similar drug to Protopic, is also in the culprit list as the active ingredient in Elidel works just like tacrolimus in Protopic. Following these reports, FDA ordered the drug manufacturer to issue a black box warning about the risk of cancer in the label of the drug. Research is now underway on whether Protopic has a role to play in causing skin cancer.
2. Canadian government’s warning: Following the FDA, Health Canada, the health care department of the Canadian government warned its citizen of the dangers of using tacrolimus creams as they carry high risk of skin cancer or lymphoma. The FDA’s MedWatch also requests physicians to report of any such cancer cases from the usage of Protopic.
3. Immunosuppressant: Above all the warnings, a simple fact about the working of Protopic can clarify about the risk of using the drug. Protopic or tacrolimus works by blocking calcineurin, a protein that activates T-cells of the white blood cells, causing an immunosuppressant condition. This activity suppresses the growth of atopic dermatitis. Though this is good, long term use can weaken the immune system, leaving loopholes for skin conditions to develop.
Protopic is a great drug but for the un-proved risk of cancer. However, if we need to go by the warnings, it is better that patients take the drug for short term and use it only if other prescriptions fail.
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