[MOL] For Informational Purposes! [05926] Medicine On Line

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[MOL] For Informational Purposes!

Tamoxifen and Raloxifene: Making Sense of the New Breast Cancer Drugs

by Samme Chittum

Just when women thought they knew the ups and downs of tamoxifen, the first
drug found to prevent breast cancer, another drug, raloxifene, is now front
page news as well.
Raloxifene, sold under the brand name "Evista" (made by Eli Lilly and Co.),
is prescribed to help prevent osteoporosis, a chronic, debilitating
condition in which bones weaken and deteriorate.
But now raloxifene is in the spotlight for another reason. Preliminary data
released by the National Cancer Institute shows raloxifene may also offer
the same breast cancer preventing protection of tamoxifen -- a 50 percent
reduced rate of cancer in clinical trials; but without tamoxifen's
downside -- an increased risk of uterine cancer.
"The safety profile of Evista is very high compared to tamoxifen," says Dr.
Maurice Cohen, director of the Women's Health Program at North Shore
Diabetes and Endocrine Associates in New York.
What's the difference between the two drugs, and how will you know if either
one is right for you? The main distinction is that while tamoxifen has been
FDA approved as a breast cancer prevention medication, it has potentially
serious risks. And raloxifene, which has only a few side effects such as leg
cramps or possible blood clots in the legs, has only been approved to help
prevent osteoporosis and lower cholesterol in postmenopausal women. That it
might also have the added benefit of reducing a woman's risk of breast
cancer is possible, but not yet certain.
Nevertheless, some doctors are hopeful about raloxifene's numerous potential
"With raloxifene, you're getting a lot of bang for you medical dollar," says
Dr. Steven Goldstein, a gynecologist at New York University Medical Center.
While this may be true, researchers are still studying the effects that
raloxifene has on preventing breast cancer. Until those studies are
complete, the drug remains one that is only prescribed to women at risk for
That's fine for some women's advocates who want more proof before jumping on
the raloxifene bandwagon. "It's far too soon to say that raloxifene prevents
breast cancer," says Cindy Pearson of the nonprofit National Women's Health
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