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American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy

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Purpose A case of apparent rasburicase-induced methemoglobinemia and acute kidney injury treated with i.v. ascorbic acid because of suspected glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency is reported.

Summary A 46-year-old African-American man with a recent diagnosis of multiple myeloma and renal insufficiency was admitted to the hospital with a cough, hemoptysis, and fatigue. His medical history included hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, ventricular tachycardia, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and pleural effusion. No treatments for multiple myeloma were started before hospital admission. Levofloxacin 750 mg orally daily for possible pneumonia, lenalidomide 10 mg orally daily, and dexamethasone 20 mg orally weekly were administered. Plasmapheresis was also initiated. Laboratory test results revealed sustained hyperuricemia, which was believed to be due in part to tumor lysis, and a single dose of rasburicase 6 mg i.v. was administered. Subsequently, the patient experienced a decrease in oxygen saturation. Methemoglobinemia was suspected, and the patient’s methemoglobin fraction was found to be 14.5%. The patient developed worsening shortness of breath and a drop in hemoglobin concentration, consistent with methemoglobinemia and hemolysis. Ascorbic acid 5 g i.v. every 6 hours was initiated for a total of six doses. Because the patient was assumed to have G6PD deficiency, which was later confirmed, methylene blue was avoided. Within 24 hours, the patient’s oxygen saturation values and symptoms improved.

Conclusion A patient with apparent rasburicase-induced methemoglobinemia and acute kidney injury was treated with i.v. ascorbic acid (5 g every six hours for six doses) because of the possibility, later proved, that he had G6PD deficiency. The methemoglobinemia resolved without worsening of renal function.


This is a post-print version of an article originally published in American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 2016, Volume 73, Issue 9.

The version of record is available through: the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.