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Liver and Kidney Failure in a Patient Who Used Hydrazine Sulfate as an Alternative Treatment for Cancer FREE

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Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 2000;133(11):S58. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-133-11-200012050-00006
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What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

Hydrazine sulfate is a chemical used in rocket fuel and other industrial applications. Because hydrazine interferes with the way the body metabolizes sugars and energy, some have thought that it might reduce the severe loss of weight and muscle that can accompany cancer. However, the small number of studies that have used hydrazine sulfate to treat patients with lung and colon cancer have shown no benefit. Despite those results, some alternative health care providers continue to market hydrazine sulfate for the self-treatment of cancer. Patients can purchase hydrazine sulfate on the Internet without a prescription.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

To report the serious side effects that occurred in a person who used hydrazine sulfate to self-treat his cancer.

Who was studied?

The report describes a 55-year-old man with cancer of the maxillary sinus. (The maxillary sinuses are areas in each side of the head, above the upper jaw and below the eyes.) The man declined to undergo the surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy that doctors had offered as options to treat his cancer. He bought hydrazine sulfate over the Internet to self-treat his cancer.

How was the study done?

The doctors caring for the patient collected information about the patient's medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests.

What did the researchers find?

After the man had taken hydrazine sulfate for approximately 4 months, he developed an itchy rash, fatigue, and jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin). Blood tests showed kidney and liver failure. No cause for his illness was identified other than the hydrazine sulfate. Despite intensive treatment, including kidney dialysis, he died after about 1 week in the hospital. An autopsy examination of the liver and kidneys showed changes that are typical of toxic injury.

What were the limitations of the study?

This report discusses only a single patient, so it does not tell us how frequently patients who use hydrazine sulfate develop complications. In addition, it suggests but does not prove that hydrazine sulfate caused the liver and kidney failure.

What are the implications of the study?

Hydrazine sulfate may be associated with liver and kidney failure that can lead to death. Patients should use caution in self-treating themselves with nonprescription products purchased on the Internet.

Summaries for Patients are a service provided by Annals to help patients better understand the complicated and often mystifying language of modern medicine.

Summaries for Patients are presented for informational purposes only. These summaries are not a substitute for advice from your own medical provider. If you have questions about this material, or need medical advice about your own health or situation, please contact your physician.

The summary below is from the full report titled “Fatal Hepatorenal Failure Associated with Hydrazine Sulfate.” It is in the 5 December 2000 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 133, pages 877-880). The authors are MI Hainer, N Tsai, ST Komura, and CL Chiu.

Summaries for Patients are a service provided by Annals to help patients better understand the complicated and often mystifying language of modern medicine.

Summaries for Patients are presented for informational purposes only. These summaries are not a substitute for advice from your own medical provider. If you have questions about this material, or need medical advice about your own health or situation, please contact your physician.

The summary below is from the full report titled “Fatal Hepatorenal Failure Associated with Hydrazine Sulfate.” It is in the 5 December 2000 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 133, pages 877-880). The authors are MI Hainer, N Tsai, ST Komura, and CL Chiu.

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