Vinblastine

Vinblastine is a chemotherapy medicine that is used to treat certain types of cancer.

It is also used to treat other conditions, such as Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis. 

How is vinblastine given?

It is given by slow injection into a vein (intravenously or IV) through a cannula, a central venous access device, an implantable port or a PICC line.

What are the side effects of vinblastine?

Bone marrow suppression

There will be a temporary reduction in how well your child’s bone marrow works. This means he or she may become anaemic, bruise or bleed more easily than usual, and have a higher risk of infection. Your child’s blood counts will be checked regularly to see how the bone marrow is working. Please tell your doctor if your child seems unusually tired, has bruising or bleeding or any signs of infection, especially a high temperature.

Constipation

Your child may become constipated. This can generally be helped by drinking lots of fluids and eating a high fibre diet. Sometimes the doctor may prescribe medicines to stimulate your child’s bowel function.

Nausea and vomiting

If experienced, nausea and vomiting is often mild but anti-sickness medicines can be used to reduce or prevent these symptoms. Please tell your doctor or nurse if your child's sickness is not controlled or persists.

Loss of appetite

It is possible that your child’s appetite may decrease while having treatment. If you are concerned about your child’s diet, please ask to speak to one of the dietitians.

Jaw pain

Sometimes vinblastine may cause jaw pain or difficulty in swallowing. This is because of the effect of vinblastine on the cranial nerve, which runs down the side of the face. These effects are temporary and usually wear off gradually once treatment is finished.

Numbness, tingling or aches and pains

This can happen because of the effect of vinblastine on your child’s nervous system. Your child may complain of aches and pains in their legs. Please tell your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. These side effects are temporary and usually wear off a few months after treatment has finished.

Hair loss

Your child may lose all of their hair or it may become thinner. This is temporary and their hair will grow back once the treatment has finished.

Diarrhoea

Please tell your doctor or nurse if your child has diarrhoea that is not controlled or persists. It is important that your child drinks lots of fluids.

Vinblastine and interactions with other medicines

Some medicines can react with vinblastine, altering how well it works. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before giving your child any other medicine, including medicines on prescription from your family doctor (GP), medicines bought from a pharmacy (chemist) or any herbal or complementary medicines.

Important information you should know about vinblastine

  • If vinblastine leaks into the tissues underneath your child’s skin, it can damage the tissue in this area. If it is given through a cannula and your child complains of stinging or burning around the cannula, please tell your doctor or nurse immediately.

  • If it is given through a central venous access device or implantable port and your child complains of pain around their chest or neck, please tell your doctor or nurse immediately.

  • If this drug is given through a central venous catheter or implantable port and your child complains of pain around their chest or neck, please tell your doctor or nurse immediately.

Compiled by: 
The Pharmacy Department in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group.
Last review date: 
November 2014
Ref: 
2014F0686

Disclaimer

Please read this information sheet from GOSH alongside the patient information leaflet (PIL) provided by the manufacturer. If you do not have a copy of the manufacturer’s patient information leaflet please talk to your pharmacist. A few products do not have a marketing authorisation (licence) as a medicine and therefore there is no PIL.

For children in particular, there may be conflicts of information between the manufacturer’s patient information leaflet (PIL) and guidance provided by GOSH and other healthcare providers. For example, some manufacturers may recommend, in the patient information leaflet, that a medicine is not given to children aged under 12 years. In most cases, this is because the manufacturer will recruit adults to clinical trials in the first instance and therefore the initial marketing authorisation (licence) only covers adults and older children.  

For new medicines, the manufacturer then has to recruit children and newborns into trials (unless the medicine is not going to be used in children and newborns) and subsequently amend the PIL with the approved information. Older medicines may have been used effectively for many years in children without problems but the manufacturer has not been required to collect data and amend the licence. This does not mean that it is unsafe for children and young people to be prescribed such a medicine ‘off-licence/off-label’. However, if you are concerned about any conflicts of information, please discuss with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.