The Esophageal Cancer Action network (ECAN), a Baltimore-based organization committing to fighting esophageal cancer, is striving to bring more attention the disease. On Monday, the group filed a citizen’s petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or FDA, requesting the agency to insist drug companies to include cancer warning on acid reflux medications that can be purchased without a physician’s prescription.
Current labels on over-the-counter medicines for gastrointestinal reflux disease or GERD, such as Nexium and Prilosec warn people to seek the advice of their primary care physician prior to consumption. The labels also alert people to not take the medicine long-term, without the mention of cancer.
A food and drug lawyer, David Rosen is filing the petition on behave of ECAN. Rosen was formerly employed with the FDA for 15 years.
“We want something that is much bolder and stronger than is on packaging now,” Rosen says.
“The warnings should include a stronger, bold and prominent statement that persistent heartburn can be a sign of increased risk of esophageal cancer and explain that drug products do not eliminate that risk,” is stated in the petition.
According to ECAN members, users do not obey the warnings on the current labels, including utilizing the medicine without consulting a physician and taking higher or more frequent doses than recommended.
The medicine can be so effective that it masks the symptoms, so people think they are totally fine and don’t seek medical treatment. However, just because the symptoms are eliminated does not necessarily mean that the risk of cancer no longer exists. In many cases, the cellular alterations have already taken place and can still lead to cancer.
The group partnered with Isos, a research firm to conduct a poll that would determine how many people was aware of the link between acid reflux disease and esophageal cancer. The findings revealed that 86 percent of Americans wasn’t aware of the connection and out of the 1,000 participants, who volunteered to take the survey only 14 percent were aware reflux could cause esophageal cancer.
With the increasing cases of Barrett’s Esophagus, the cancer warnings are a necessity more now than ever, the group said.
An estimated three million Americans have Barrett’s Esophagus, but because the symptoms are so vague less than half are unaware of their condition, which is also why people are not diagnosed until the disease is advanced.