A CVS Store in New Jersey has reportedly given the cancer drug tamoxifen to a number children by accident due to a pharmacy error, after the drug got mixed up with chewable fluoride tablets.
It is estimated that between December 20, 2011 and February 20, about 50 prescriptions were dispensed by a CVS pharmacy in Chatham that contained tamoxifen, when they were supposed to contain fluride tablets.
A number of children are believed to have ingested the cancer drug, but no illnesses have been reported thus far and experts indicate that the children are unlikely to suffer any adverse side effects.
CVS officials say they do not know how the prescription error occurred. While the pills are white and look similar, they come with coding on the pill to prevent such mistakes.
The tamoxifen pills have an M stamped into one side of the tablet and the number 247 on the other, while the fluoride tablets have SCI stamped on one side and the number 1007 on the other. The 0.5 mg fluoride pills the children were supposed to receive are chewable and are meant to prevent tooth decay.
According to CVS, the company has tried to contact all of the families who received the wrong pills and is investigating the medication mistakes.
Tamoxifen was first approved by the FDA in 1971 for the treatment of breast cancer. Originally developed by AstraZeneca under the brand name Nolvadex, it is now sold under a variety of brand names, including Istubal and Valodex, and is also sold as a generic. Tamoxifen works by inhibiting the development of estrogen, which is believed to stimulate the spread of breast cancer. As of 2004, it was the largest selling hormone-based breast cancer treatment drug in the world.
The side effects of tamoxifen can include cognitive problems and memory loss, according to some studies. The drug has also been linked to an increased risk in diabetes and actually increasing the risk of rare and aggressive forms of breast cancer. However, health experts have said that the children given the tamoxifen pills are likely in no danger due to the short period time they accidentally took the medication.