It's like a nightmare, except you never get to wake up: A drug used during a common back procedure has been linked to cancer -- including one of the deadliest forms of the disease on the planet.
That drug is Infuse, which is supposed to stimulate bone growth after a spinal fusion procedure.
It's already been linked to everything from infection to sterility -- but now, a leading researcher finds that high doses of the drug can boost the odds of cancer by 2.5 times in the first year alone, and by 500 percent in the three years after the procedure.
Dr. Eugene Carragee, editor-in-chief of Spine Journal, told the North American Spine Society that these cancers include breast and prostate cancer -- and believe it or not, that's the good news.
After all, you can fight those cancers and win (although it would be outright insane to deliberately boost your risk of either).
That bad news: The drug was also linked to pancreatic cancer -- the same cancer that killed Steve Jobs and claims nearly 95 percent of all patients within five years.
Dr. Carragee said the risk seemed to be greater for Amplify, a high-dose version of Infuse that was rejected by the FDA earlier this year over cancer concerns.
Hey, every now and then the agency gets one right -- but in this case, it didn't matter. If docs want Amplify, all they have to do is up the dose of Infuse -- and many of them have been doing just that.
What makes this so much worse is that all of it could have been avoided -- because there's evidence that the researchers behind the studies that were used to get Infuse approved turned a blind eye to its side effects.
As I told you before, these researchers claimed the drug was practically risk-free -- and many of those same researchers were also collecting millions of dollars from Medtronic, the company that makes Infuse.
A coincidence? You decide.
A more recent look at the data -- including the data from the trials that supposedly found that drug to be so safe -- found that up to 50 percent of patients given Infuse experience side effects such as infection, bone loss and excess bone growth.
And for men, the drug may also come with a risk of both sterility and a horrific condition called retrograde ejaculation.
That last one is exactly what it sounds like: You ejaculate backwards, into your bladder instead of out the penis.
There's no alternative to Infuse -- if you need a spinal fusion, just go without. Or better yet, find a way to avoid the surgery in the first place -- because you might not even need the procedure at all.