Vincristine Administration Warning to Doctors

A rare but probably underreported drug mix-up involving a potent cancer drug can kill or permanently paralyze patients, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) warned Thursday.

The drug vincristine is supposed to be injected into a vein but is sometimes accidentally added to spinal catheters used for different drugs in lymphoma patients. Administering vincristine into the spine kills nerve cells and is usually fatal. About 49 cases of vincristine mix-ups worldwide happened since 1968. About 90% of patients died. In 2002 it is reported a 49-year-old New Jersey man died while undergoing treatment for lymphoma.

If you are scheduled to receive chemotherapy via the spine you should double check with your health care team that vincristine will not be administered via the spine. Vincristine should only be administered by the manufacturer's instructions which is usually by IV (vein).

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