When to Screen Patients Taking Ondansetron (Zofran)

A recent study indicates that a single oral dose of ondansetron (Zofran®) is safe.

This excerpt from Eric Benchimol’s twitter feed: ow.ly/rBaV0:

New research from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the University of Calgary’s Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute helps to clarify the actual risk of ondansetron administration and cardiac arrhythmias in both children and adults. The study is published in the December issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine

In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration notified health-care professionals and patients of an ongoing safety review and labelling changes for the anti-nausea drug linking its use to the possibility of inducing abnormal and potentially fatal arrhythmias.  The warning also implied that doctors needed to rule out conditions that might place patients at risk for developing an abnormal heart rhythm prior to giving patients the drug.  Screening all patients for such conditions requires ECG monitoring and blood testing, which are associated with discomfort, delayed care and may lead to additional unnecessary investigations and anxiety.  In 2012, the FDA issued an update linking the risk only to the administration of the drug in high doses intravenously. However, there was no change in the universal screening recommendations to all patients before receiving ondansetron, in any dose or route…

Through an in-depth post-marketing analysis which included a systematic review of published literature, the FDA Adverse Events Reporting System and the World Health Organization Individual Safety Case Reports Database, Drs. Yaron Finkelstein and Stephen Freedman explored this association. They did not find any reports of arrhythmia related to the administration of a single oral dose of ondansetron, the most common administration route, employed in over 85 per cent of doses given to children in emergency departments…

The study’s principal investigator, Dr. Yaron Finkelstein, staff physician in Paediatric Emergency Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology and Associate Scientist at SickKids. “Despite more than 22 years of use and hundreds of millions of ondansetron doses administered worldwide, we did not find evidence to support screening of patients without known risk factors before administering a single oral ondansetron dose.” 

Bottomline:  “The authors concluded that ECG screening and electrolyte testing should be targeted to patients with known risk factors such as patients with cardiac diseases or those concomitantly receiving other arrhythmia-inducing medications and those receiving ondansetron intravenously or repeated doses, while it is not warranted in low-risk individuals who are receiving a single oral dose.”

Related blog post: A drug that makes a difference: ondansetron | gutsandgrowth

1 thought on “When to Screen Patients Taking Ondansetron (Zofran)

  1. Pingback: Ondansetron for Gastroenteritis | gutsandgrowth

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.