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WHO raises Ebola risk to ‘very high’

The Ebola outbreak in Congo poses a greater danger to the Central African country and the region than previously assumed, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The recent confirmation of a case in Mbandaka, a large city that straddles national and international transport routes, had increased the risk of the virus spreading further, the UN health agency said on Friday in Geneva.

“WHO has, therefore, revised the assessment of public health risk to very high at the national level and high at the regional level,’’ it said in a statement.

The global significance of this outbreak that has killed 14 people, so far is being discussed at a WHO emergency meeting and will be announced later on Friday.

The WHO has previously said that the chance of a global outbreak is low.

In Congo, the Health Ministry announced that the number of confirmed Ebola cases in the country has risen from three to 14.

“In total since the start of the epidemic, there have been 45 cases of haemorrhagic fever, including 10 suspected cases, 21 probable cases and 14 confirmed cases,’’ the ministry said late Thursday.

While one person was confirmed dead from the virus, 25 people are suspected to have died from it, the ministry said.

One of the most contagious viral diseases known, Ebola’s symptoms are extraordinarily painful and include severe vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, impaired kidney and liver function as well as internal and external bleeding.

The UN and aid organisations are racing to prevent the recurrence of an outbreak like in 2014, when 11,000 people died in the West African epidemic that was centred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The executive of the EU on Friday announced the release of 1.6 million euros (1.9 million dollars) to help tackle the outbreak, with most of the money going to the WHO to provide logistics support.

Ban on Codeine, like ban on weed, won’t work – Seun Kuti

Seun Kuti, son of late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, said the ban imposed on the importation of codeine, an addictive ingredient in cough syrup, recently announced by the Nigerian government will not be effective.

Kuti, who is also a notable Afrobeat musician. said this in reaction to the ban on the production of codeine containing syrups in Nigeria via his twitter handle.

He said the ban would not be effective and will only help drug dealers to make more money.

He tweeted, “Igbo (marijuana) has been banned since forever (unjustly) but e still dey everywhere. The reactionary ban of Codeine by the FG only means drug dealers will make more money from it. It can’t affect supply. #Bigpharma”.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, had ordered the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)  to place a ban on the further issuance of permits for the importation of codeine for cough syrup preparations and for other uses.

FG bans cough syrup containing codeine as abuse takes hold of Nigerians

The federal government has banned the production and importation of codeine in the country.

Isaac Adewole, minister of health, gave the directive to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on Tuesday, a day after a BBC documentary exposed the abuse of the syrup.

WHAT IS CODEINE?

  • It is a substance used in treating pain and cough. It is imported into Nigeria. Syrups containing it are said to be produced by at least 20 companies in the country.

The BBC had reported “codeine addiction epidemic” in some parts of the country and how young Nigerians are using the substance to get high.

In the report, the broadcast service had also indicted Emzor Pharmaceuticals of its alleged role in the sale of the substance — leading to the company announcing a suspension of its distribution.

Adewale said the ban was necessitated by the high abuse of codeine in the country.

He also directed NAFDAC to immediately stop further issuance of permits for the importation of the substance and instead, should be replaced with dextromethorphan which is less addictive.

The minister also banned the sales of codeine containing cough syrup without prescription across the country, even as he directed the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria, (PCN) and NAFDAC to supervise the recall for labelling and audit trailing of all codeine containing cough syrups in the country.

He said the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group (PMGMAN) had also been informed of the embargo on all new applications for registration of such syrups containing cough syrups as well as applications for renewal has been abolished.

After the BBC reported that its executive was discovered to have been involved in the sale of syrups containing codeine in the ‘black market’, Emzor Pharmaceuticals announced a suspension on the distribution of such syrups.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the company said the distribution had been suspended pending the outcome of a “full and thorough internal investigation” on the issue.

It, however, denied that it is involved in its direct sales to members of the public.

Below is the full statement from Emzor:

Emzor Pharmaceuticals is a responsible and ethical company with over 120 lines including Emzolyn with Codeine under licence from NAFDAC. Emzor is treating the findings of the BBC documentary with the upmost seriousness and has launched a full and through investigation. Emzor adheres fully to the documentation guidelines for the handling, production, storing and distribution of products containing codeine.

Our staff are trained on the controlled status of codeine and codeine products and supply guidelines. Emzor is not involved in the direct sales to individual members of the public. Emzor does not sanction the supply of Emzolyn with Codeine in any way that breaches the Dangerous Drugs Act or NAFDAC guidelines. Emzor’s daily production is below 0.5% of the reported estimated daily amounts of codeine reportedly consumed in Kano and Jigawa States. The Sales Rep depicted in the BBC video was initially placed on suspension and has now been summarily dismissed following an investigation. Any representations made by the Sales Rep are in breach of company policy and ethics and were undertaken independently by him.

The distribution of Emzolyn with Codeine has been suspended pending the results of a full and thorough internal investigation. We hope the findings of the documentary will shed further light on the extent and impact of the illicit trade and consumption of codeine. We hope that full stakeholder engagement will result in impactful action against the abuse, smuggling and faking of drugs on the continent. Thank you.

How to prevent blindness from glaucoma – Expert

As the World Glaucoma Day was marked on Monday, Nigerians above forty years have been advised to go for eye check at least twice a year, to protect themselves against blindness from the disease.

Glaucoma is a disease that affects the nerves of the eyes and leads to gradual blindness overtime. To promote awareness of the disease, March 12 is internationally recognised as World Glaucoma Day, while March 11-17 is World Glaucoma Week.

Lack of early detection of the disease has been attributed as one of the reasons why most glaucoma patients in Nigeria lost their sight to the disease.

An ophthalmologist, Fatimah Kyari, said it is sad that most patients with glaucoma do not present their cases to the hospital until too late.

She said most of the patients present their cases after they had lost an eye and are gradually losing the other.

According to Ms. Kyari, another reason most people lose their sight to the disease is that they do not visit the right specialists who were trained to diagnose rare eye problems.

“Glaucoma if early diagnosed can be managed and prevent total blindness. We need to make people know that blindness from glaucoma can be prevented if presented early.

“We often advise patients who come for treatment to go back home and encourage their relations on the diseases. There is also need for constant eye screening because glaucoma is hereditary. People with family history of glaucoma have a high tendency of having the disease,” she said.

Ms. Kyari said another challenge with early treatment of the disease is that most people live in denial.

“They do not believe when they are told they are gradually losing their sight. Most of them tend to hide the ailment and do not come back for treatment until it gets worse.

I will advise Nigerians especially people above 40 to go for eye checkup at least twice a year and should insist on seeing a specialist and not a technician,” she said.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world and second cause of blindness after cataract.

Africans and African Americans are the highest number affected with glaucoma across the world. About 1.5 million people are living with the threat of going blind due to the disease.

A glaucoma patient, John Awodele, who spoke on the matter  said the challenge with having glaucoma in Nigeria is the early diagnosis and management of the disease.

Mr. Awodele said he knew he had the tendency of having the disease because most of his maternal uncles lost their sight to the disease, yet his case was not detected early.

He said although he was going to the optician regularly for checkup, it only led to him changing his glasses.

Mr. Awodele said because of his knowledge of the disease, he always told his opticians to check for it.

He became concerned when he had to change his reading glasses three times within a year because he was not seeing well.

“Ever since my case was detected by the optometrist, I had been placed on drugs which I use every day. The problem is the cost of getting medication and the side effect of the drugs. The drug cost about N8, 000 per month.

The cost of treatment is quite high especially for the aged who are often most affected by the disease. Most of them cannot afford the drugs and this is affecting the treatment of the ailment. The government should make treatment of glaucoma a priority especially as it affects the aged in the country,” he said.

Mr. Awodele, however, said the amount spent on treatment is worth it, judging by the long term effect of the drugs in preventing total blindness.

Ms. Kyari said there is no significant difference in the prevalent blindness rate in the urban and rural area because the level of awareness of the disease is same irrespective of status, age, and education.

This was also seen in a survey done by PREMIUM TIMES as most of the people asked on the streets of Abuja said they had no knowledge of the disease.

10 facts about glaucoma

1. Glaucoma is a common eye condition where the optic nerves connecting the eye to the brain is damaged, usually due to high eye pressure.

2. Glaucoma has no symptom. It can only be detected by regular eye examination.

3. Treatment can help, but this condition cannot be cured.

4. Diagnosis requires laboratory test or imaging test.

5. Glaucoma can be chronic and can last for years or be lifelong.

6. Sight loss to glaucoma cannot be recovered.

7. Glaucoma can be diagnosed by seeing an optometrist.

8. There are 100,000 cases in Nigeria per year, most undiagnosed.

9. Glaucoma is hereditary.

10. Glaucoma is usually a slow disease. Untreated glaucoma takes an average of 15 years to progress from early damage to blindness.

Nigerian bakeries still use cancer-causing chemical in bread – Food expert

A food expert in Nigeria has alerted the federal government on the continuous use of a banned substance, potassium bromate, in bakeries.

Oladunni Akinnawo, a professor of food chemistry at Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo State, said a recent study she conducted in Ibadan and Oyo towns, for instance, indicated the use of potassium bromate in 72 per cent of bread samples.

Mrs. Akinnawo stated this on Thursday while delivering the 9th inaugural lecture of the university, according to a statement issued by the university spokesperson, Alvan Ewuzie.

The lecturer called on the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, to intensify enlightenment and enforcement of the ban in order to safeguard consumers’ lives.

She said the substance, which is added to bread dough to strengthen it, increase loaf volume, and improve the texture, can cause sore throat, abdominal pains, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. In extreme cases, it could lead to kidney failure and heart failure, she said.

She added that studies have linked the compound in the chemical to cancer in experimental animals and humans and has been classified as a potential carcinogen.

Mrs. Akinnawo, who teaches in the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Ajayi Crowther University, urged Nigerians to shun certain contemporary food practices like uncontrolled use of additives in making snacks in fast food houses, which she said was responsible for most cases of overweight in adults and obesity in adolescents.

She condemned the practice of using polyethylene wrappers to steam moi-moi (beans pudding), saying it was dangerous to health. The practice, she said, releases dioxins and other carcinogenic toxins into the food, during the process of cooking.

According to her, wrapping of moi-moi in leaves, while cooking it, was better than wrapping it in nylon or other materials. She said the leaves preserve the taste and make it more hygienic.

Mrs. Akinnawo, who advised Nigerians to diversify their food choices rather than being restricted to garri, fufu, amala, and rice, acknowledged that rice production has been on the rise in the country. But said the federal government could do more than that.

“Rice is not the only food that Nigerians eat and need,” she said. “Just as the government is diversifying the economy, there is need to diversify crop species for production and consumption.

“Emphasis should be on producing more of food crops like maize, yams, fruits, leafy fruits and vegetables…. There is need to enlarge our food basket to increase most of crop species, a large variety of diets can be available to promote a good nutrition and encourage optimal health,” she said.

The lecture was attended by scholars from Ajayi Crowther University and the University of Ibadan. It was chaired by the Vice Chancellor of Ajayi Crowther University, Dapo Asaju.

DNA: 30% of Nigerian first born children belong to other men – Genetic experts

 

  • Experts attribute the increase in paternity disputes and deceptions to infidelity, adultery and increase in sexual recklessness among Nigerian couples
  • Three men in 10 are living under the deception that they are the fathers of another man’s children

 

  • Recent trends in sexual health especially in Nigeria suggest that unprotected sex and multiple partners’ relationships are a common occurrence.

Experts have said there is need to increase awareness and facilities for Deoxyribonucleic Acid, also known as DNA testing in the country, as statistics have revealed that more children are living with parents that are not biologically theirs.

According to a forensic geneticist, Dr. Abiodun Salami, 30 per cent of fathers are unknowingly nurturing and investing in children who are not biologically theirs.

Salami, who is also the Chief Medical Director, DNA Centre, Lagos, revealed that 50 per cent of the all paternity tests carried out in his laboratory came out negative and mostly affected were first born children.

He said, “Several surveys have shown that approximately three men in 10 are living under the deception that they are the fathers of another man’s children and with advances in genetic testing, they are more likely than ever to find out the shocking truth. Half of the paternity disputes and tests we carried out in two years showed that the fathers were not biologically related to their children especially when the dispute arose on paternity of first born children.

“We have seen cases of paternity disputes where even the two men claiming paternity to a child are excluded as the biological fathers from test results leaving the mother to look elsewhere for the child’s biological father. I have witnessed shocking cases where men discover that three or four children out of five they had were not fathered by them.”

Salami attributed the increase in paternity disputes and deceptions to infidelity, adultery and increase in sexual recklessness among Nigerian couples.

“This percentage is increasing because of sexual recklessness. Recent trends in sexual health especially in Nigeria suggest that unprotected sex and multiple partners’ relationships are a common occurrence. Another issue is poor family planning among women. Most first born pregnancies are still unplanned.

“I have seen and discussed with women who for one reason or other decide in their own wisdom to give another man’s child to their husbands without the husband’s knowledge.

“As a geneticist, I deal on a daily basis with the fall-out of adultery and other manifestations of selfish behaviour of spouses to their partners. Reproductive deception is morally similar to rape,” he said.

Naturally, when a case of paternity dispute arises in a family, relatives, husbands are quick to accuse the woman. It is assumed that a mother should be able to accurately disclose who the biological father of her child is.

However, Salami noted that only a DNA test could be used to confirm who fathered a child.

According to him, more babies are increasingly being switched without their mothers’ knowledge by nurses, birth attendants and health workers in hospitals.

He noted that baby switches were happening at a disturbing rate in Nigerian hospitals and the geneticist attributed these mix-ups to avoidable errors or malfeasance.

Salami condemned the use of corresponding ID bracelets between mothers and their babies, the most prevalent method in Nigerian hospitals ,which he said, often lead to mix-ups since such bracelets could fall off babies’ ankles or wrists and lead to nurses misreading infants to mothers’ bracelet information.

Apart from the ID mix-ups, he said bed mix-ups by health workers often happen especially in general wards especially after babies have been removed for bathing or treatment.

Salami, sharing an experience said, “I witnessed a case where a friend gave birth to a child and I went to visit, only for the father who was present at the delivery of the baby to come back to the hospital in the evening to say, to the surprise of everyone present that the baby the hospital presented was not his baby because his baby was born with dreadlocks just like him.

“He had to escort the doctors to identify his baby inside one of the cribs. This happened right inside one of the biggest and well known hospitals in Ikeja, Lagos.

“In the light of some of these shortcomings, we encourage maternal DNA testing because if we exclude her, we have established a case of infidelity against her, whereas her baby was switched at the hospital.”

He also urged mothers who doubt or suspect that their babies have been switched to voice their concerns as such cases could be investigated and documented for future references.

“Many people get home and look at a child and wonder if they brought home the right baby. In some reported cases, mothers have voiced their concerns while at the hospital, but did not get the chance to find out the truth until years later through DNA tests.

“To an ordinary person, this may look rare or even sound strange as most cases of babies switched at birth are either undocumented or unknown,” Salami added.

However, as beneficial as paternity DNA testing is, the importance of the DNA testing is still unpopular and often times regarded as irrelevant in Nigeria.

Salami said that most Nigerians often use physical resemblance to fathers as a test of paternity.

“Unfortunately, Nigerians still use physical attributes to determine the paternity of a child. We have seen numerous cases where a child resembles a father, but accurate DNA test results show that such child and father are not related.

“Determination of paternity using physical attributes has led to a situation where illegitimate children have caused untold hardships to families,” he explained.

Shedding more light on the importance of the test as a means of identification, a haematologist with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, who pleaded an anonymity because he is not the hospital’s official spokesperson, called on government to provide DNA testing and banking (storing) facilities.

He said with these facilities, families could still make DNA verification after parties involved are dead.

Olowoshelu said a sample of the deceased tissues that had been stored could be used and if no biological samples from the alleged father are available, grand parentage testing could be a viable option.

“ If one or both paternal grandparents are unavailable for testing, other family relationship tests–such as genetic reconstructions and siblings’ tests, using the deceased brothers or sisters may be performed to indirectly determine a child’s paternity,” he said.

Earlier, Salami stated that poor DNA profiling and documentation due to lack of facilities and personnel had made this procedure a luxury to many Nigerians. He noted that such stored samples could help solve legal and financial disputes.

“Nigerians must take DNA testing and profiling and banking seriously. There are different reasons to establish paternity including the need to lay claims to a financial support.

“Government must provide DNA testing facilities such that we can have reference DNA for individuals should their remains need to be identified especially for those in high-risk employment such as the military, police, pilots, air hostesses and even those that fly the Nigerian airspace on regular basis.

“We can bank their DNA as a reference in cases of future paternity tests should some parties contest or make claims on inheritances that are not theirs,” he said.

Nigerian University announces new ‘cancer, diabetes drugs’

Nigerian university says it has developed new drugs to treat diabetes and cancer.

The Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University Dutse, Jigawa state, Fatima Batul Muktar, said this on Monday at a press briefing marking the third convocation of the university.

She said the anti-diabetic drug has successfully passed pre-clinical stage and has gotten ”ethical approval for clinical trials by Kano State Hospital Management Board.”

The researcher, Salihu Ibrahim Isma’il, of the school’s Biochemistry department, who developed the drugs, also confirmed this in an interview.

He said the prevalence of diabetes and cancers motivated him into going into the research.

He said he was particularly concerned about the alarming rate of diabetes, especially in the developing world.

“The rating by International Diabetes Federation stated that, in Nigeria, there are about 1.7 millon people are living with diabetes and over 7.7 million people are pre-diabetic,” he said.

Mr. Ibrahim said the huge economic cost of the disease had pushed many into poverty. He said this motivated him to look at a way of developing a herbal alternative.

He said the drug targets the Type 2 diabetes because it is the most prevalent.

”We had moved into clinical trial stage. We have successfully completed the pre-clinical trial of the anti-diabetic drug. We developed two drugs. We took one and moved with it. When we are done with it, we would take the second one into the clinical trial stage.

“In the pre-clinical stage, we have satisfied and validated the drug safety, efficacy and standardised the method in producing the drugs. This success we achieved motivated me to take the drugs to clinical trial stage,” he said.

He, however, did not give details on the new cancer drug.

Diabetes is divided into three categories: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is rare and is associated with pregnancy while Type 1 represents 5 per cent of all cases.

Type 2 diabetes is a serious health condition in which blood sugar levels rise much higher than normal.

The fundamental biological changes underlying type 2 diabetes are lack of sufficient insulin production due to metabolic changes of aging and resistance.

22% of Nigerians suffer from chronic depression – World Bank

A new study by the World Bank has revealed that 22 per cent of Nigerians, on average, are chronically depressed.

The study looked at the first nationally representative estimates of chronic depression in Nigeria to shed light on how it may be linked to economic outcomes, such as Labour market and human capital investments, especially in heavy-conflict areas or for individuals or communities who have experienced shocks or deaths.

Describing the availability of representative statistics of mental health at the national level as rare, the Washington-based lender’s Mind, Behaviour and Development Unit said the results were not surprising, but telling.

Chronic depression, according to the report, is strongly associated with adverse events, especially conflict, and these events are positively associated with chronic depression but their effects vary.

“For example, less than 30 per cent of household heads who are affected by a family death or a community shock (such as droughts) are chronically depressed. This contrasts with more than 50 per cent of household heads affected by conflicts; this rate of depression is more than twice the national average,” it said.

There are strong socioeconomic gradients at play with respect to chronic depression, the World Bank’s behavioural sciences team in the Poverty and Equity Global Practice said.

It said, “Being in the bottom 30 per cent of the income distribution is positively associated with chronic depression. Even worse, adverse events affecting these households add another 10 percentage points to the probability of having a chronically depressed household head. Poverty and shocks go hand in hand.”

The study also finds that there is a strong correlation between chronic depression and labour market outcomes.

It said, “Specifically, a household head who is chronically depressed has an eight percentage points lower probability of participating in the labour market. While the overall effects are similar by gender, chronic depression drives lower labour market participation in agricultural activities for men and in non-farm self-employment for women (which is mainly driven by gender sectoral distribution). In our sample of workers, there is no correlation in terms of number of hours worked.”

According to the report, chronic depression also affects child investments.

It says families with a chronically depressed parent spend nearly $30 (in current terms) less in educational expenses annually, driven by lower investments among older girls between 12 and 18 years of age.

It adds that younger children (particularly girls) between five and 11 years of age who live with a chronically depressed parent are 2.5 percentage points more likely to work.

The World Bank said, “Taken together, these findings suggest that chronic depression is likely to have both short- and long-term effects on welfare in Nigeria. It also seems to be affecting intra and inter-generational channels of upward mobility.

Scientists unravel link between alchohol and cancer

Think twice about that frothy, bubbly alcohol you consume as scientists have issued a new warning about its health effects by unravelling the linkage between it and cancer.

Alcohol damages the DNA of stem cells responsible for producing new blood, according to a mouse study which may explain the link between drinking and cancer, scientists said on Wednesday.

Health watchdogs have long warned that alcohol consumption contributes to seven types of cancer — of the mouth, throat, larynx or voice box, oesophagus or food pipe, breast, liver and bowel.

What was not well understood was: how?

For the new study, published in the science journal Nature, researchers gave lab mice diluted alcohol, known chemically as ethanol.

They then used chromosome and DNA analysis to examine genetic damage caused by acetaldehyde, a chemical produced when the body processes alcohol.

“They found that acetaldehyde can break and damage DNA within blood stem cells, leading to rearranged chromosomes and permanently altering the DNA sequences within these cells,” Cancer Research UK, which helped fund the research, said in a statement.

“It is important to understand how the DNA blueprint within stem cells is damaged because when healthy stem cells become faulty, they can give rise to cancer.”

DNA damage can lead to cell death, but can also trigger the body’s natural repair mechanisms. However, if the DNA is repaired incorrectly, it can lead to cancer.

“While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage,” said lead author Ketan Patel of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

The team also examined how the body fights against alcohol damage using a family of enzymes called ALDH, which turn acetaldehyde into acetate, which cells can use as energy.

Millions of people — particularly from Southeast Asia — either lack these enzymes or carry faulty versions, said the team. And mice lacking ALDH, given alcohol, suffered four times as much DNA damage.

“Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers,” said Patel.

It may be a contributor to an “extremely high prevalence” of throat cancer in countries such as China, commented Malcolm Alison of the Queen Mary University of London, who was not involved in the study.

Commentators welcomed the paper’s contribution to the knowledge base.

“This is beautiful work, which puts our finger on the molecular basis for the link between alcohol and increased cancer risk and stem cells. Very important,” said Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz of the University of Cambridge.

Common blood pressure drug raises skin cancer risk

A new study, led by Danish-based researchers, shows that one of the most popular drugs used worldwide in the treatment of hypertension raises the risk of skin cancer by seven times.

Hydrochlorothiazide users may be at a much higher risk of developing skin cancer, according to new research.

The study was led by Anton Pottegård, associate professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, and the findings were published in the Journal of the American Association of Dermatology.

Pottegård and colleagues examined the link between the common drug hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) and the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer.

HCTZ is a popular diuretic used to treat water retention and high blood pressure . In fact, according to some studies , it is “the most commonly prescribed antihypertensive drug worldwide.”

The researchers were prompted in their endeavor by the fact that HCTZ has been linked with an increased risk of lip cancer in the past. In fact, a study led by Pottegård attributed 11 percent of lip cancer cases to the drug.

Moreover, HCTZ, the authors explain, makes the skin more sensitive to the damage of ultraviolet (UV) rays, due to its photosensitizing effects. This was a further reason for the researchers to examine the drug.

Using national databases, Pottegård and colleagues examined the use of HCTZ in over 80,000 patients who had been diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer, and compared it with its use in a group of 1.5 million healthy controls.

Additionally, the researchers considered the use of other antihypertensive medication.
The research revealed that those who took HCTZ were up to seven times more likely to develop skin cancer. More specifically, the antihypertensive drug raised the risk of both squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma – a less serious form of skin cancer.

By contrast, none of the other antihypertensive drugs examined seemed to raise skin cancer risk.

“We knew that hydrochlorothiazide made the skin more vulnerable to damage from the sun’s UV rays, but what is new and also surprising is that long-term use of this blood pressure medicine leads to such a significant increase in the risk of skin cancer,” comments Pottegård.

Choosing a different drug might be advisable

Dr. Armand B. Cognetta Jr., chief division of dermatology at Florida State University in Tallahassee and a co-author on the study, weighs in on the findings, saying, “We have seen and followed many patients with different skin cancers where the only risk factor apart from exposure to sunlight seems to be hydrochlorothiazide.”

“The combination of living and residing in sunny Florida while taking hydrochlorothiazide seems to be very serious and even life-threatening for some patients,” he adds.

“The study carried out by Pottegård and his colleagues will have [a] great impact on skin cancer prevention and public health worldwide,” Dr. Cognetta explains.

However, Pottegård cautions against dismissing the use of HCTZ altogether as a result of his study, saying, “The risk of skin cancer must, of course, be weighed against the fact that hydrochlorothiazide is an effective and otherwise safe treatment for most patients.”

“Nevertheless,” he continues, “our results should lead to a reconsideration of the use of hydrochlorothiazide. Hopefully, with this study, we can contribute towards ensuring safer treatment of high blood pressure in the future.

“You should not interrupt your treatment without first consulting your doctor. However, if you use hydrochlorothiazide at present, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor to see if it is possible to choose a different medicine.”

(Medical News Today)