Posted: December 12, 2013

A rare but fatal medication error can occur when the cancer drug vincristine is administered improperly. Vincristine is often ordered to treat various types of cancer, including childhood leukemia.  It is often administered along with methotrexate. Methotrexate can be given in the spinal column but vincristine can only be administered intravenously, or IV.  If vincristine is mistakenly injected into the spinal column it can cause spinal cord injury and death.

There have been at least 120 reported cases of vincristine being injected into the spinal column. The medication mistake caused the patients to develop severe headaches, paralysis of the arms and legs, difficulty breathing, encephalopathy, destruction of the brain and spinal cord and death. In all of the cases reported, both medications were placed in syringes that looked alike. Both medications were prepared by the pharmacy or pharmacist and sent to the oncology or chemotherapy unit where the vincristine was to be administered intravenously and the methotrexate into the spinal canal.  Unfortunately, the syringes were not double-checked prior to giving the medications and the vincristine was accidentally administered in the spinal cord instead of the methotrexate. Administering the correct medication incorrectly can lead to lifelong pain and suffering, serious or even fatal injury.

If you or someone close to you suffered permanent damage to the brain or spinal cord or died after receiving the wrong medicine you may want to find a medication error law firm near you and speak with a medical malpractice attorney for additional information.