Unfortunately, Arava is a problem because it has been linked to serious health conditions and fatalities in several patients. It has been associated with severe liver toxicity, as well as blood disorders, high blood pressure, lymphoma, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, skin disorders, birth defects, and even death.
What’s the problem?
More than 200,000 patients have used the rheumatoid arthritis drug Arava (leflunomide) since its FDA approval in September 1998. When it was approved, the FDA said Arava was no better than its competitor methotrexate, but felt rheumatoid patients needed alternative options. The option appears to have been a dangerous one to Arava patients, due to the fact that the death rate is 33 times higher than in methotrexate patients.
In February 2001, the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medical Products issued a warning to doctors and patients citing nine liver failure deaths in Arava patients. Aventis Pharmaceuticals, Arava’s manufacturer, issued a warning letter to physicians two months later. The American College of Rheumatology published a warning to doctors and patients in August to warn of the serious potential Arava side effects by urging monthly blood tests in a patient’s first six months on the drug with follow up tests every two to three months after.
Additionally, Arava is dangerous because it remains in the body tissues for an extended amount of time. Patients who have discontinued their use of Arava due to adverse effects can continue to experience serious symptoms because of this.