Volume 59, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


In India, sodium antimony gluconate is the drug of choice for kala-azar. Due to increasing unresponsiveness to this drug in the current epidemic that began in the early 1970s, daily doses of 20 mg/kg/day for 30 days or more is recommended as opposed to the 10 mg/kg/day dose for 6-10 days used in the past. Of the 130-150 patients treated annually at our center with locally made sodium antimony gluconate, serious cardiotoxicity has occurred in less than 10%. During April 1995 at the University Hospital in Varanasi, we encountered life-threatening cardiotoxicity after 3-28 days of therapy in each of the eight patients being treated with a new lot of this drug made by a different manufacturer. Of the eight patients, six each developed congestive heart failure and/or prolongation of the corrected QT interval (QTc), and three died as a direct consequence of drug-induced toxicities. In three instances, the life-threatening complications occurred with a cumulative dose of less than 300 mg/kg. In patients with prolonged QTc, ventricular premature beats and ventricular tachycardia were recorded; in one patient, the ventricular tachycardia progressed to torsade de pointes, culminating in ventricular fibrillation and death. Since switching to different lots of this drug, we have not seen further clustering of dangerous cardiotoxicity. The antimony content of the implicated drug was comparable with that in lots from other manufacturers that did not show overt toxicity, but the osmolarity was approximately 300 mOsm/L higher. The simple technique of measuring of osmolarity may help identify inappropriately manufactured drug.


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