Reports of New Herceptin Risks

The Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that radiation and the pharmaceutical drug, Herceptin, are linked to some heart problems. Because radiation treatment in breast cancer patients cannot be localized to just the targeted area, the heart and coronary arteries are typically also exposed, increasing the risk of future heart disease. Herceptin apparently can lead its users to lose some pumping ability in the heart and shortness of breath, both very troubling outcomes for cancer patients and cancer survivors.

As I mentioned in my blog post on August 2nd, the cost/benefit of these cancer fighting drugs are very different from, for example, Vioxx. Clearly the fact that there are great risks associated with the use of Herceptin is well understood. The package insert warns, among other adverse events, pulmonary risks and cardiomyopathy (serious inflammation of the heart muscles). But the efficacy of Herceptin might be such that it is worth the risk given the benefits of the drug, even in conjunction with the heart risks that come with radiation. I point this out simply because many plaintiffs’ pharmaceutical lawyers in Maryland and around the country have a knee jerk reaction that new learned of risks associated with a drug means there must be liability on the part of the drug company. But really, news of unexpected adverse outcomes is just the beginning for the personal injury lawyer’s investigation as to whether there is liability on the part of the drug company for clients who suffered these adverse effects.

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