'Prescribe ezetimibe despite cancer link'

GPs should continue to prescribe ezetimibe despite research linking the drug to an increased risk of cancer.

The findings of the SEAS trial, presented yesterday at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich, showed that the use of ezetimibe caused more deaths from cancer than placebo.

For the study, 1,873 patients with aortic stenosis were randomly assigned to receive either a combination of simvasatin (40mg daily) plus ezetimibe (10mg daily) or a placebo.

At the end of the four-year study, the 101 patients developed cancer in the ezetimibe group compared with 65 in the control group.

The number of cases of fatal cancer was also higher in the ezetimibe group at 39 compared with 23 in the control group.

A meta-analysis of three ezetimibe studies, including SEAS, and involving an additional 20,617 patients was then performed to further examine the cancer link.

However, this study concluded that there was on overall excess of cancer associated with ezetimibe use (313 cases in the ezetimibe groups compared with 326 in the controls).

But Dr Terry McCormack, chairman of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society and a GP in North Yorkshire, said: ‘The findings are not worrying enough to stop the use of the drug.

‘The level of use of ezetimibe is low in the UK at approximately 3-4 per cent.’

Berkshire GP Dr George Kassianos, a member of the British Cardiology Society, agreed that the findings were not conclusive enough to prove that ezetimibe could increase the risk of cancer.

‘The increase in cancer could be due to the ageing population. In general practice we are seeing more and more cases of cancer.

‘But we need further studies into ezetimibe, which is a fairly new drug.’

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

The New England Journal of Medicine

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