Methotrexate is a powerful drug that’s used in chemotherapy for cancer patients. It can cause serious suppression of bone marrow, and it can also damage the lungs and liver, even at low doses.
Extraordinarily, it’s also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The dose is peculiar – just one 30 mg tablet should be taken once a week – yet, even so, it still claims more than its fair share of victims. One hospital in the Midlands has reported three cases of elderly people who were taking methotrexate for their rheumatoid arthritis. They all needed intensive care after they experienced a sudden drop in bone marrow levels. Two recovered, but one died, as did two others over a similar period.
All had taken the correct dosage, and yet the drug still had fatal consequences. The drug is a more frequent killer if the arthritis patient takes the drug too frequently, such as daily instead of weekly.
The hospital staff suggests that folic acid could be taken with the drug to counteract its worst excesses of bone marrow suppression. Or perhaps the sufferer could just take something safer.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2003; 326: 266-7).
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