Drug Interactions Causing Warfarin Overdose in a Patient with Pancreatic Cancer: A Case Report

Chemotherapy. 2023;68(2):111-114. doi: 10.1159/000528063. Epub 2022 Nov 29.


Mistletoe, Viscum album, is a medicinal plant used in complementary medicine in oncology. Patients do not necessarily mention to their oncologist this phytotherapeutic treatment which may be responsible for unsuspected drug interactions. Some patients are adept at taking medicinal plants, a practice often unknown to health professionals who take care of them. This case reports drug interactions leading to bleeding secondary to warfarin overdose. A patient over 75 years of age was treated with nab-paclitaxel and gemcitabine as a first course for metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma (day 0). He was also treated with warfarin for atrial fibrillation. At day 3, he reported faintness and melena. At day 5, the biological assessment revealed anemia with hemoglobinemia of 5.1 g/dL and an international normalized ratio of 7.3, indicating vitamin K antagonist (VKA) overdose. Warfarin was discontinued and the patient received vitamin K supplementation and transfusions. The final diagnosis was an anemic syndrome due to gastrointestinal bleeding secondary to VKA overdose. Based on the chronology, a drug interaction between chemotherapy and warfarin was first suspected. Then, the patient interview found out that he self-medicated with subcutaneous injections of mistletoe extracts: 10 mg on day 0 and on day 2. Nab-paclitaxel can displace warfarin from its albumin binding sites and increase the free and active concentration of warfarin. Mistletoe extracts (V. album) are used as complementary medicine in oncology. Warfarin is predominantly metabolized in the liver by 1A2, 2C9, and 3A4 cytochrome P450 (CYP) isoforms. An inhibitor of these cytochromes prevents the degradation of warfarin into inactive metabolites, leading to accumulation or even overdose of this narrow therapeutic index VKA. Nab-paclitaxel and gemcitabine do not act on these cytochromes. V. album is a cytochrome P450 3A4 inhibitor which therefore probably led to an increase in exposure to warfarin. Thus, there are two pharmacokinetic hypotheses that may explain warfarin overdose: the displacement of warfarin from its albumin binding sites or the inhibition of CYP3A4 by mistletoe. This adverse drug event was reported to the Regional Pharmacovigilance Center of Strasbourg on June 30, 2021, and registered under the number ST20212767.

Keywords: Drug interactions; Mistletoe; Nab-paclitaxel; Pancreatic cancer; Warfarin.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma* / drug therapy
  • Albumins / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / therapeutic use
  • Drug Interactions
  • Gemcitabine
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Paclitaxel / therapeutic use
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Warfarin / adverse effects


  • Warfarin
  • Paclitaxel
  • Gemcitabine
  • Plant Extracts
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Albumins