Medication safety and the administration of intravenous vincristine: international survey of oncology pharmacists

J Oncol Pharm Pract. 2015 Feb;21(1):10-8. doi: 10.1177/1078155213517729. Epub 2014 Jan 13.


Purpose: The risk of medication errors with vincristine administration is well documented. Our objective was to ascertain how vincristine is administered worldwide and determine what strategies for preventing the accidental intrathecal administration of vincristine are in place.

Methods: A survey, comprising 28 questions, was distributed to 363 International Society of Oncology Pharmacy Practitioners members from 42 countries via email. Questions were asked on methods of vincristine administration, intrathecal drug administration and strategies used to prevent medication errors. A reminder was sent and the survey was available on the International Society of Oncology Pharmacy Practitioners website. Only one survey per institution was requested.

Results: In all, 62 responses from 15 countries were received, with the majority from Australia. Vincristine was dispensed in mini-bags in 77.4% of centres, though some also used syringes. Syringes were used in 31.1% of centres, with half these doses prepared undiluted. Administration took 5 to 15 minutes in most centres (78.8%). The most common reasons for still using syringes were perceived risk of extravasation and faster infusion time. Despite numerous vincristine administrations, extravasation was very rare. Other recommended strategies for error prevention were in use in the majority of centres.

Conclusion: Comparisons with three previous surveys are difficult as the majority of respondents in those studies were from the USA. A number of areas appear to have improved, particularly the preparation of vincristine in mini-bags, but they are far from perfect. Deaths continue to occur following accidental intrathecal administration of vincristine. International Society of Oncology Pharmacy Practitioner members are urged to lead the way in incorporating strategies for prevention into institutions worldwide.

Keywords: Medications errors; prevention; survey; vincristine.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use*
  • Data Collection
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous / adverse effects
  • Infusions, Intravenous / methods
  • Infusions, Intravenous / standards
  • Medical Oncology / methods
  • Medical Oncology / statistics & numerical data*
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Patient Safety / statistics & numerical data
  • Pharmacists / standards
  • Pharmacists / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vincristine / administration & dosage
  • Vincristine / adverse effects
  • Vincristine / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Vincristine