Drug Erases Fingerprints, Causing Immigration Drama

A drug that removes your fingerprints?

Capecitabine is not the work of a criminal mastermind with a PhD in chemistry. Rather, it is a common cancer drug, routinely given to patients with head, neck and kidney cancers.The drug’s fingerprint-obliterating side effects were discovered when a cancer patient, 62, from Singapore, travelled to the US last year. Immigration officials found he had no fingerprints because capecitabine had caused so much redness and peeling.

Customs officials held the man, known only as Mr S, for four hours before deciding he was not a security threat, according to a letter published yesterday in the Annals Of Oncology journal.

Doctors said very few patients temporarily lost their fingerprints while on capecitabine.

“Most patients will complain they’re having difficulty holding things or sensing things,” said Dr Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

After returning home, Mr S asked his oncologist, Dr Eng-Huat Tan at the National Cancer Centre in Singapore, to write a letter certifying that he was on capecitabine.

Dr Tan recommended in his letter to the journal that patients taking capecitabine carry a doctor’s note if they are travelling to the US. Once patients stop taking the drug and apply ice to their hands, their fingerprints will return in about a month.

Dr Brawley guessed that US officials became suspicious because criminals sometimes erase their fingerprints with sandpaper or dip them in acid. But he says there are too many side effects, including a weakened immune system and increased cancer risk, for it to be likely anyone would take the drug for illicit reasons.

Dr Tan said: “No criminal in his right mind would take this drug to try to get rid of his fingerprints.”

Source: www.shm.com.au

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