The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced the addition of a boxed warning to the label of Regranex Gel 0.01% (becaplermin) to address the increased risk of cancer mortality in patients who use 3 or more tubes of the product. Regranex is a topical cream indicated for the treatment of leg and foot ulcers that are not healing in diabetic patients.
The WARNINGS section of the product has been updated to include a BOXED WARNING and a description of the epidemiologic data that is the basis for the revised label. These data come from a retrospective study that compared cancer incidence and cancer mortality among 1,622 patients exposed to Regranex to 2,809 otherwise similar patients who were not exposed. The results were consistent with no overall increase in cancer incidence among the patients exposed to Regranex. However, there was a five-fold increased risk of cancer mortality in the group exposed to three or more tubes of Regranex.
"In announcing this label change, FDA still cautions health care professionals to carefully weigh the risks and benefits of treating patients with Regranex," said Susan Walker, M.D., director of the Division of Dermatological and Dental Products. "Regranex is not recommended for patients with known malignancies."
In late March, 2008 the FDA issued an Ongoing Safety Review Communication on Regranex notifying the public that it was conducting a safety review. This follow-up communication is in keeping with FDA’s commitment to notify the public of any regulatory changes with this FDA approved product.
Regranex is a medicine that is a recombinant form of human platelet-derived growth factor which is applied directly to diabetic foot and leg ulcers that are not healing. The recombinant form of platelet growth factor has a biologic activity that is much like that produced naturally by the body. Growth factors cause cells to divide more rapidly. It is for this reason that the manufacturer continued to monitor studies begun before Regranex was approved in December 1997 for any evidence of adverse effects such as increased numbers of cancers. In a long term safety study completed in 2001, there were more deaths from cancer in people who used Regranex than in those who did not use it.
Following the report of the study completed in 2001, an additional study was performed using a health insurance database that covered the period from January, 1998 through June, 2003. This study used the database to identify two groups of patients with similar diagnoses, drug use, and use of health services, one of which used Regranex and one group that did not. The results of this study showed that deaths from cancer were higher for patients who were given three or more prescriptions for treatment with Regranex than those who were not treated with Regranex. No single type of cancer was identified, but rather deaths from all types of cancer, combined were observed.
Source: FDA, June 6, 2008