Common chemotheraphy drug may be fatal, study finds

6/10/2009

NEW YORK Research presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s 45th Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla. found that a chemotherapy drug intended to help save the lives of cancer patients showed adverse, life-threatening and sometimes fatal allergic reactions.

A new study from the Research on Adverse Drug Events and Reports pharmacovigilance program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that from 1997 to 2007, 38% of the 287 cases of hypersensitivity reactions reported to the FDA’s Adverse Event Report System were associated with the use of Cremophor-based paclitaxel and resulted in death.

The solvent-administered taxane chemotheraphy used in the treatment of breast cancer and other cancers is believed to be the cause of such fatal hypersensitivity reactions. RADAR researchers found that 22% of all fatalities occurred in patients, regardless of pre-medication received by each patient to prevent hypersensitivity reactions. Another 15% experienced life-threatening respiratory arrest.

"The results of our review suggest that physicians should be vigilant in monitoring the safety of their patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment," said leader of the study, Charles Bennett, M.D., program coordinator and a professor at Northwestern’s Feinberg School.

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