Imagine you are being treated for breast cancer. Your diagnosis is good since medication available on the market will heal you. You have your prescription but the pharmacist switches your medication for another since the generic name is similar and he has trouble reading your doctor’s prescription. Both prescription drugs are for breast cancer but one will be lethal at the dosage prescribed by the other.
That is what federal health regulators warned of potential for dosing errors with two Roche Holding breast-cancer drugs because of the incorrect use of one product’s generic name. The drugs at issue are Roche’s new breast-cancer drug Kadcyla (pictured above) and Herceptin (pictured below).
The generic, or non-brand name, for Kadcyla is ado-trastuzumab emtansine and the generic name for Herceptin is trastuzumab. As you can see, if the “ado” is missed, the you get a different medication for your treatment. Three simple letters can create side effects which can be lethal.
The Food and Drug Administration said it has become aware that some electronic health record systems and systems used for pharmacy prescription processing and ordering are omitting the word “ado” and referring to Kadcyla as trastuzumab emtansine, which the agency says may cause confusion with Herceptin. The dosing and treatment schedules for Kadcyla and Herceptin are different. This has become a concern since there were some mistakes reported during clinical trials. To make matters even more confusing, Kadcyla is a combination of Herceptin and a strong chemotherapy agent and is approved to treat certain types of breast cancer that have spread to other parts of the body.
The side effects for Kadcyla include fatigue, nausea, musculoskeletal pain, decrease of platelets in the blood, headache, increased transaminases (liver damage), and constipation. Overall not too bad considering you are fighting breast cancer. The side effects for Herceptin are more severe and include the warning that it can cause cardiac failure if used improperly. Some other side effects include fever and chills, and on occasion include nausea, vomiting, pain (in some cases at tumor sites), headache, dizziness, dyspnea (shortness of breath), hypo tension (low blood pressure), rash, and asthenia (muscle weakness).