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FDA strengthens hepatitis B warning on cancer medicines

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Two cancer medications now known to have a potential link to reactivating dormant cases of hepatitis B will receive stronger warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about this side effect. The sexually transmitted disease can be dormant in patients, but side effects of the medications may cause the disease to become active, potentially becoming a deadly complication for people already diagnosed with cancer.

Hepatitis B and cancer medications
The new warnings will be applied to the drug Arzerra from GlaxoSmithKline Plc., which treats chronic lymphocytic leukemia, as well as Rituxan, a medicine made by Roche Holding AG and Biogen Idec Inc. intended to treat CLL, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis. While the drugs already have warnings on the labels, the FDA has approved larger, black warnings to ensure that patients are aware of the risk, since some fatalities have occurred from reactivated cases.

The FDA is also urging patients who may take either of the medications to have adequate STD testing beforehand. The agency also recommended that doctors closely monitor patients who had previously been infected with hepatitis B and who were taking the medication to ensure that the virus did not reactivate for several months afterward. The hepatitis B infections are able to come back because the medication lowers the body's immune system, allowing the liver infection to return, according to Reuters.

Hepatitis B infections
Hepatitis B is an STD that affects the liver. It is caused by the hepatitis B virus, which is spread through semen, blood and other bodily fluids. Those practicing unprotected sex may be vulnerable to the infection and should consider STD tests. The virus can also be spread through perforated needles, like those found in a tattoo parlor, as well as through bites from infected people.

Initially, hepatitis infections cause many flu-like symptoms, such as fever, nausea, joint pains and weight loss. It also includes digestive issues like diarrhea and vomiting. Later in the stages of infection, hepatitis causes liver damage, which can lead to inflammation, cirrhosis and cancer. While there is no cure for the disease, there is a vaccine as well as steps that can help stop the spread of HBV to others, noted the Mayo Clinic.

For those considering being tested for the disease, a lab test online can be the answer. Discreet and professional, an anonymous STD test can provide answers to set patients' minds at ease before using certain medications.

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