Women at high risk urged to use breast cancer meds to prevent disease

Two breast cancer drugs could get a boost from new expert advice. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends that doctors offer the drugs--tamoxifen and raloxifene, a.k.a. Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Evista--to high-risk patients to prevent the disease.

As the New York Times reports, the advice is based on new analyses that clarify the drugs' preventive benefits and their risk of serious side effects, including blood clots and strokes. The new data from an ongoing study is due for publication in the Annals of Internal Medicine

The recommendations apply to women aged 40 to 70 who have a family history of breast cancer, or a personal history of breast lumps or other problems. The drugs lower cancer risk, the task force said, and that may be worth their potential side effects. Previous advice had noted the drugs' preventive benefits, but stopped short of advising doctors to offer them to their patients, the Times reports.

Doctors should prescribe them only to women at low risk of developing blood clots or suffering a stroke, the panel said. And they should not be used by women who aren't at high risk of breast cancer.

It's the latest set of recommendations for preventive use of drugs used to treat illness. Last year, the FDA approved a Gilead Sciences ($GILD) HIV treatment, Truvada, to prevent infection in patients at high risk. The agency denied a preventive indication to GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) prostate cancer treatment Avodart, but the National Cancer Institute cites that drug and competitor Proscar, from Merck ($MRK), as possible preventive tools.

- read the NYT piece