More than 500,000 women in the United States already take the drug, whose brand name is Evista, manufactured by Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly. The FDA approved its use years ago to prevent or treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
In a statement yesterday, Dr. Steven Galson, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said the expanded use of Evista "provides an important new option for women at heightened risk of breast cancer."
"Because Evista can cause serious side effects, the benefits and risks of taking Evista should be carefully evaluated," he said. "Women should talk with their health care provider about whether the drug is right for them."
Dr. Lawrence Wickerham, chief of medical genetics and cancer prevention at Allegheny General Hospital's breast cancer center, called the announcement "extraordinarily good news for postmenopausal women at increased risk for future breast cancer."