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Iressa in Canada availability ending

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Once promising drug for lung cancer being withdrawn from market

10:40:41 EDT Jun 6, 2006

TORONTO (CP) - A once promising treatment for difficult-to-treat lung cancer is being essentially withdrawn from the Canadian market.

Drug-maker AstraZeneca Canada Inc. announced Monday that new patients will not be treated with its drug Iressa (gefitinib). Patients currently on the drug and benefiting from the therapy will be allowed to continue on treatment, the company said in a release.

"No new patients will be given access to Iressa," Health Canada spokesperson Christopher Williams confirmed.

Patients taking part in clinical trials for Iressa who receive the drug directly from their doctor will continue to have access to Iressa, AstraZeneca said.

The drug was once seen as a potential breakthrough in the treatment of lung cancer, one of the most difficult-to-treat forms of cancer. But those hopes where dashed when a major study showed Iressa does not prolong survival in patients who have failed one or two prior chemotherapies or were intolerant to these treatments.

"Though the study did not show Iressa being associated with any new side effects, due to lack of demonstrated benefit in extending survival and the previously disclosed risks that are associated with the use of Iressa, only patients that are currently benefiting from Iressa treatment and whose tumours are epidermal growth factor receptor positive or unknown should receive this drug," the company said in a statement posted on a Health Canada website.

Patients who will remain on the drug will need to be registered in the Iressa patient registry, the company said.

It urged all patients taking the drug to review their use of Iressa with their physicians.

© The Canadian Press,

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Really? Bad news...

I live in Montreal, Canada. I remember in June 2003, Iressa was not approved by Health Canada/Santé Canada, the patient could only apply on a clinical trial. The oncologist had problems accepting my mother, because she received Carboplatin chemo before. The onc. finally managed to get 25 Iressa tablets from a deceased patient (not enough!).

It seems that there's always problems with Iressa in Canada...

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