Pensioner dies after accidentally being given chemotherapy drug in Norway

A woman in Norway has died after she was wrongly given three times the recommended amount of a chemotherapy drug instead of her usual dose of antidepressant medication.

Reidun Hansen died of pneumonia at the end of April it was revealed yesterday, six months after she was given 20mg of the chemotherapy drug Methotrexate at the Ostfold Hospital in Norway in September 2014.

The Norwegian Board of Health has now begun an investigation into the fatal mistake after the hospital came forward and admitted what had happened.

70-year-old Hansen, a long time sufferer of depression, had initially been admitted into hospital after breaking her thigh bone during a fall at her home, according to Norwegian local news.

When she was being discharged the hospital, Hansen's doctors prescribed her with a 20mg dose of the antidepressant, Serxat, a drug which she had been taking for years. However, for reasons currently unknown to investigators, she was instead given the same oral dose of the Methotrexate, a drug commonly used to treat leukaemia and other forms of aggressive cancers.

After bringing the drug home and taking it, Hansen began suffering from serious internal bleeding and was left unable to eat or drink. She was admitted back to Ostfold hospital again three days later. The mix up was then only discovered another three days following her re-admittance.

Hansen remained bedridden in the intensive care unit at Ostfold hospital and died from pneumonia six months later.

Speaking with Norwegian media, acting CEO at Ostfold Hospital, Irene Dahl Andersen, said: "It is a very sad event, which we regret strongly" adding that mishandling of medication should not be possible.

"It is not supposed to happen," Andersen said, "We have several control mechanisms to detect such things, but here it was missed on several levels".

Svein Ronsen, head of the Deputy County Medical board responsible for investigating the death of Reidun Hansen told Norwegian media that, since the woman's death, the hospital in question "has implemented many measures to prevent similar incidents happening again".

Ronsen was not immediately available to comment further.

Methotrexate is a type of drug known as a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD). It is used reduce the strength and activity of the body's natural defence system. Taking the drug leaves most patients vulnerable to common colds and viruses.

In the last 20 years a number of people have died in Norway after taking the drug Methotrexate, having been prescribed over the recommended dose, according to the Norwegian Medicines Agency. Over 400 patients have been admitted to hospital after taking the drug, with 50 dying due to the medicine's side effects.

The side effects of Methotrexate commonly include, sickness; loss of appetite; bacterial infection of blood or tissues; bleeding of the stomach and inflation of the intestines.