Medication Safety Articles

 

A rare but fatal error can occur when the cancer medicine vincristine is given the wrong way. Vincristine is given intravenously (into the vein) to treat various types of cancer. It is often given in combination with another cancer medicine called methotrexate. Methotrexate can be given into the spinal canal (intrathecally). This helps prevent the cancer from spreading to the brain. If vincristine is mistakenly given into the spinal canal instead of the methotrexate, death is almost certain.

Camphorated phenol is an antiseptic liquid containing camphor and phenol. These two ingredients, used in combination, are often used to treat pain and itching associated with conditions such as minor burns, cold sores, insect bites, itching skin and mild sunburn. Camphorated phenol is a liquid that must only be applied directly to the skin. Ingesting camphorated phenol can cause toxicity, especially in children.

In March 2013, we described a case in which a number of 9- and 10-year old children were taken to hospitals after they had ingested what they thought were breath mints but were actually nicotine replacement lozenges. The “mints” had been brought to school by a classmate. Unfortunately, we have learned of a similar incident, this time involving melatonin strips.

Consumers should also be aware of potential safety issues involving the phosphate content in Fleet enemas. This is especially true in elderly patients, who may use more than just one enema at a time and risk metabolic disorders and fatalities. When a Fleet enema is used, a second dose in quick succession to the first should not be used. Prolonged use or overuse can also lead to dehydration as well as fluid and electrolyte imbalances.

After high school, many young adults, ages 18 through 24, look forward to new and exciting opportunities. Many of them leave home for college, work, or military service. They feel extremely independent and able to handle most situations. With the use of technology, they can usually find the help and answers they need within minutes when problems arise. But, this can also be a very stressful time in life. If your child needs to take medicine to treat a medical condition, mistakes can happen. This can lead to a life-threatening situation. The question is, should they turn to the Internet for answers?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is  alerting patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals of the importance of appropriate storage, use, application, and disposal of fentanyl patches (including Duragesic and generic products) to prevent potential life-threatening harm from accidental exposure to the active ingredient, fentanyl.

Most people consider their pets as part of the family. But just like you wouldn’t want to take another family member’s medicines by mistake, you don’t want to accidentally take your pet’s medicine either.  Who would ever make that mistake? You’d be surprised how often it happens.

In February, the Chicago Sun Times reported that 16 elementary school children had been taken to local hospitals with a sudden illness. The children were 9- and 10-year olds who began vomiting after eating “mints” given to them by another classmate. It was later found that these “mints” were actually nicotine-replacement lozenges, called NiQuitin Minis (Figure 1 on page 3). (NiQuitin is a product from the United Kingdom that is sold online; however, the Nicorette brand made in the US has a similar product.) The classmate found the lozenges at home and brought them to school to share.

Infants who are breastfed or partially breastfed should receive a daily supplement of vitamin D starting in the first few days of life. Breast milk has only 25 units of vitamin D per liter (that’s roughly a quart or about 32 ounces). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a daily dose of 400 units of vitamin D for infants. Infants who drink less than a liter of formula also may need a lower dose of a vitamin D supplement. Although formula is fortified with vitamin D, enough may not be consumed each day to get the total recommended dose of 400 units.

The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) is a national leader in vaccine education for both healthcare professionals and the public. Recently, IAC announced a new and improved website to help the public get the information they need about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases. Visit www.vaccineinformation.org for reliable information on vaccines and their importance.

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