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The Anti-Sickness Drug That Could Kill You

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Cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy may be given an injection called Anzemet to counteract the nausea and vomiting caused by the chemotherapy. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration has issued a safety announcement saying they don’t think it should be used anymore because it causes an irregular heartbeat in some patients and in some cases it may even be fatal.

The drug causes a condition called Torsade de Pointes, an abnormal heart rhythm and QRS intervals on an ECG machine. It also causes dose-dependent PR and QRS prolongation. This is a particular risk to patients who already suffer from heart problems.

It can still be used for the prevention of post-operative sickness when it is given in lower doses that are unlikely to affect the electrical activity of the heart, so for this reason it is not being recalled, but it will have extra contraindications added to the patient information leaflet and should not be used for chemotherapy anymore. The tablet version of Anzemet can still be used as this is less potent than the injection.

To summarize, Anzemet causes:
1. Torsade de Pointes, an abnormal heart rhythm
2. Abnormal ECG readings
3. Dose-dependent PR and QRS prolongation
4. It should not be used in people with congenital long QT syndrome
5. Anyone who has congestive heart failure, bradycardia, underlying heart disease or who is renaly impaired should be monitored via ECG when taking this drug.

Information for Patients

If you are being given Anzemet and you experience any dizziness, abnormal heart beat, racing heart, shortness of breath or fainting, please seek immediate medical attention.

Please consult your doctor about stopping the medication.

Report any adverse reactions you have to:

Reference: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/RegulatoryInformation/Guidances/UCM129357.pdf

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