This morning at the American Academy of Neurology’s conference in Seattle, a report was released reporting that there is a significantly increased risk of leukemia from the drug mitoxantrone (Novantrone) in patients with progressive forms of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Novantrone has always had significant health risks. When patients receive a dosage increase they must undergo regular cardiac monitoring due to the risk of cardiotoxicity and the threat of permanent heart damage.
Today’s report, presented by Dr. Vittorio Martinelli, MD of the University Vita-Salute in Milan, Italy, stated: In a retrospective study of 2,854 MS patients receiving the drug, 21 people developed leukemia (.74 percent) and out of those 21, eight patients died.
Previously standardized leukemia rates of Novantrone patients were published as .07 percent – .25 percent.
On average, leukemia was reported three years after the first dose of Novantrone and 18 months after drug treatment ended. Number of treatments as well as cumulative dose of the drug seemed to heighten leukemia risk. People developing leukemia had an average of 8.6 doses while those not contracting the disease averaged 7.2 doses.
Dr. Martinelli stressed that, “It is vital that all MS patients treated with mitozantrone undergo prolonged and careful hematological follow-up to check for acute leukemia”.
We have read from a few of you in the comment section on various blog postings the reality of these risks and again offer our condolences.
Novantrone is a powerful drug and as this report suggests it has powerful side effects. Just like any other treatment for MS, one should assess the risk to benefit ratio for your personal situation. Once any drug regiment is started it is our responsibility (to ourselves and to our families) to actively follow-up with recommended health screenings.
I know for me, Novantrone was a risk I was willing to take (because of my steep decline at the time). Whether or not I would be the same today without it I can’t say. I will, however, make sure I’m getting the recommended blood work done…next week!
Live from the AAN, this is Trevis Gleason signing off.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.