When a New York Times full page advertisement offered post-menopausal women a free trial month voucher for the prescription drug, Evista, it brought grave concern to Cancer Prevention Coalition Chairman Dr. Samuel Epstein, MD.
Evista, manufactured by Eli Lilly under the generic name raloxifene hydrochloride, is known as a “Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator” that has been widely marketed since 1997 for preventing and treating osteoporosis. The drug has also been shown to reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer in post-menopausal women with osteoporosis and in post-menopausal women at high-risk for invasive breast cancer, according to the Food and Drug Administration website.
The Times ad warns Evista’s side effects may include, “hot flashes and severe joint pain, blood clots in legs (known as deep vein thrombosis) and lungs, and dying from stroke.” But the ad particularly fails to warn Evista’s risk of ovarian cancer, according to the Cancer Prevention Coalition.
This year, ovarian cancer will strike about 21,880 women and accounts for 4 percent of cancer. National Cancer Institute data shows ovarian cancer death rates have increase in white and African American women over 65 by 15 and 36 percent, respectively. There are now about 13,850 deaths from ovarian cancer annually, making it one of the most lethal cancers in women.
In December 1997, when the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly announced the FDA's clearance to market Evista, its initial claim was the drug had been found to be effective in preventing osteoporosis, affecting more than 20 million U.S. women annually, and in reducing LDL or "bad cholesterol" blood levels. Lilly also submitted applications to market Evista in more than 30 different nations.
Dr. Epstein, a professor emeritus of Environmental & Occupational Medicine at University of Illinois’ Chicago School of Public Health asserts “Lilly, with FDA's complicity, has attempted to suppress explicit evidence that Evista poses major risks of ovarian cancer on the alleged grounds that the 'clinical relevance of these tumor findings is unknown.”