Background: Intravenous ascorbic acid (IV AA) has been used extensively in cancer patients throughout the United States. Currently, there are limited data on the safety and clinical effects of IV AA. The purpose of this study was to expand the current literature using a retrospective analysis of adverse events and symptomatic changes of IV AA in a large sample of cancer patients.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of all patients receiving IV AA for cancer at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital over a 7-year period. We assessed all reports of adverse events, laboratory findings, and hospital or emergency department admissions. We also reviewed quality-of-life data, including fatigue, nausea, pain, appetite, and mood.
Results: There were 86 patients who received a total of 3034 doses of IV AA ranging from 50 to 150g. In all, 32 patients received only ascorbic acid as part of their cancer management (1197 doses), whereas 54 patients received ascorbic acid in conjunction with chemotherapy (1837 doses). The most common adverse events related to ascorbic acid were temporary nausea and discomfort at the injection site. All events reported in the ascorbic acid alone group were associated with less than 3% of the total number of infusions. Patients, overall, reported improvements in fatigue, pain, and mood while receiving ascorbic acid.
Conclusions: The results of this retrospective analysis support the growing evidence that IV AA is generally safe and well tolerated in patients with cancer, and may be useful in symptom management and improving quality of life.
Keywords: adverse effects; ascorbic acid; cancer; intravenous; quality of life; safety; vitamin C.