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FDA panel urges curbs on 2 anemia drugs

Advisers cite risk of heart ailments

SILVER SPRING, Md. --Best-selling anemia drugs from Amgen Inc. and Johnson & Johnson should have their use restricted because of dangerous side effects, a US advisory panel said. Amgen shares fell the most in five years.

The panel of expert advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted 15-2 in favor of new prescribing restrictions and 17-0 for new clinical trials during a meeting yesterday in Silver Spring, Md.

Shares of Amgen fell $5.77, or 9.1 percent, to $57.33 in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. J&J shares fell $1.61, or 2.5 percent, to $62.50 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The drugs raised the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death when used at high doses, studies released in the last six months showed. An FDA warning in March prompted the US health program for the elderly and disabled to stop paying for treatments in certain patients, and doctors cut back on use. The products accounted for $6.6 billion, or 47 percent, of Amgen revenue in 2006.

"Many of us are concerned on the committee and have a lot of questions," said Gail Eckhardt, an oncologist at the University of Colorado in Aurora, and the advisory panel's chairwoman.

The questions concerned the design of trials, why regulators have limited access to results from company studies, and why the drugs have been marketed for improving quality of life if there isn't sufficient evidence for the claim, Eckhardt said.

The FDA usually follows the recommendations of its advisory panels, although it isn't required to do so.

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