Cancer Drug Can Kill or Paralyze When Improperly AdministeredJul 18, 2005 | www.newsinferno.com The improper administration of the powerful cancer drug Vincristine has lead to deaths or permanent paralysis in a number of patients. The fatal results occur when the drug is administered through a spinal catheter rather than being injected into a vein.
The confusion is explained in part by the fact that the spinal catheter method is used for other drugs given to leukemia and lymphoma patients. An injection of vincristine directly into the spine, however, kills nerve cells and in 90% of cases reported since 1968 it also kills the patient.
In an effort to protect cancer patients, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) sent a warning to over 4,500 hospitals and threatened to withdraw accreditation from institutions that did not adopt its guidelines for the prevention of this extremely dangerous but preventable error.
The JCAHO has recommended both the labeling of vincristine syringes with warnings that spinal injections are fatal and prohibiting the drug from being administered in the same rooms as drugs that are injected into the spine.
These findings also raise the concern that such deadly errors are actually being underreported for fear of provoking lawsuits and other sanctions. Only one case, which resulted in permanent paralysis, was reported to JCAHO.