Pregnant mom mistakenly given abortion pill instead of antibiotic

Photo of two methotrexate pills. The round yellow pills – which also come in tablet form – are shown next to a ruler in order to illustrate their size.

Without a medical education, it's difficult to tell that these aren't antibiotics. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/NAME/Methotrexate Blog)

ABC News reports that expectant 19-year-old mother Mareena Silva of Ft. Lupon, Colo., was six weeks pregnant when she obtained a prescription for antibiotics to fight off an infection. In a harrowing turn of events, the pharmacist accidentally gave Silva methotrexate, a chemotherapy and rheumatoid arthritis drug that can act as an abortion pill. Now Silva may lose her baby.

Methotrexate and mistaken identity

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, methotrexate can harm a developing fetus. As an abortion pill, it can cause miscarriages and birth defects, frightening truths Silva had never contemplated.

“I am so worried about myself and the baby,” Silva cried during an ABC News interview. “I just took one, but it was so much more of a big deal because I’m only six weeks along.”

Dr. Paul Doering of the University of Florida’s College of Pharmacy told ABC News that few pharmacy mistakes could have been as dangerous. All it took was a careless mistake from a pharmacy technologist, who matched the methotrexate prescription with Mareena Silva’s last name. Unfortunately, the tech didn’t pay close enough attention to the similar but different first name on the bottle. The methotrexate was for another woman.

’50-50 chance’ of avoiding danger

Mareena Silva reportedly experienced nausea after a single pill. Her doctor advised her to induce vomiting immediately. Silva was then rushed to the hospital and administered charcoal to absorb the methotrexate. Dr. Marcel Casavant of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, told ABC News that there remains a “50-50 chance” Silva will experience problems with her child.

Doering told ABC News that if his wife or daughter accidentally took methotrexate during pregnancy, the risk to the fetus would be so great that he would recommend abortion.

Medication during pregnancy: A sensitive affair

A recent U.S. study showed that there have been more than 30 deaths related to methotrexate dosing errors in recent years. Mike Cohen, president of the Institute for Safe Medicine Practice, points out that methotrexate can cause severe reactions in some, making close screening essential. Harmful pharmacy mistakes occur up to 3 percent of the time, says an Atlanta Journal-Constitution study. Mistakes involving drugs like methadone, Trazadone and warfarin have led to death and life-threatening consequences.

Anyone who believes they’ve taken the wrong medicine should contact a poison control center immediately at 800-222-1222.


ABC News

Huffington Post

National Center for Biotechnology Information

One doctor’s view on using medication during pregnancy

Other recent posts by bryanh