Vincristine

Vincristine is a chemotherapy medicine used to treat leukaemia and some solid tumours. It is also used to treat other conditions.

How is vincristine given?

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

What are the side effects of vincristine?

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.

Numbness, tingling, or aches and pains

This can happen because of the effect of vincristine on your child’s nervous system. Your child may complain of aches and pains in their legs. Please ask your doctor or nurse for advice if your child has aches and pains. If your child has any difficulty walking, for example he or she walks on tiptoes, slaps his or her feet or has balance problems, please tell the doctor. Your child may need to see a physiotherapist. The future dosage of vincristine may then be lowered. 

These side effects are temporary and usually wear off a few months after treatment has finished. In some younger children, their eyelids may droop a little while on vincristine. This again is due to the effect on the nervous system.

Jaw pain

Sometimes vincristine may cause jaw pain or difficulty in swallowing. This is because of the effect of vincristine 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. Please ask your doctor or nurse for advice if your child has jaw pain.

Hair loss

Your child may lose some or all of his or her hair, or it may become thinner. This is temporary and the hair will grow back once the treatment is finished.

Temporary alteration in taste

It is possible your child may experience a different taste while eating favourite foods. Your dietitian may be able to suggest ways round this.

Discomfort on urination or urine retention

Your child may experience pain or discomfort on urination or difficulty in passing urine. Please tell the doctor or nurse if this occurs.

Vincristine and interactions with other medicines

Some medicines can react with vincristine, 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 vincristine

  • If vincristine leaks into the tissues underneath your child’s skin, it can damage the tissue in that area.
  • If this drug is given through a cannula, and your child complains of stinging and burning around the cannula, 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, GOSH.
Last review date: 
May 2013
Ref: 
2013F0729

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.