The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is alerting healthcare professionals about the potential health risks associated with cesium chloride, a mineral salt used by some as an alternative treatment for cancer.

Specifically, adverse events such as QT prolongation, low potassium, seizures, potentially lethal arrhythmias, fainting, cardiac arrest, and death have been associated with the use of cesium. Most of the cases involved patients taking cesium to treat cancer; 3 of these cases were published in 2018 and involved patients with advanced cancer. Cesium chloride is not approved by the FDA to treat cancer or any other disease.

These adverse events were associated with both oral and injectable formulations of cesium; in the 23 cases identified, doses ranged from 500mg taken daily to 100g taken over 11 days. In cases where cesium concentrations were measured, users were found to have extremely high levels of cesium in the body (several hundred to thousand-fold higher than normal). 

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As a result of this investigation, the FDA has decided to move cesium chloride and other cesium salts to the category of substances that present significant safety risks in compounding.  As such, this substance cannot be used for compounding unless the FDA authorizes its use.

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This article originally appeared on MPR