Tainted Cocaine Can Be Fatal, WRHA Warns

By Sarah Klein

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said Friday two adults were recently hospitalized as the result of tainted cocaine.

The WRHA said the two individuals were suffering from ‘neutropenia’ (also known as agranulocytosis), a serious illness that impacts patients’ immune systems, leaving them unable to fight off infections. If left untreated, the result of the disease can be fatal. Both patients are suspected cocaine users, and became ill as a result of using cocaine adulterated with levamisole.

Dr. Pierre Plourde, WRHA Medical Officer of Health warned for current users of cocaine, or crack cocaine, to reduce their use of the drug. The laced drug can produce symptoms such as a fever or infection. Other effects include wounds and sores (ulcers), bladder (urinary tract) or lung (pneumonia).

Levamisole is a drug used by veterinarians to rid animals of internal parasites, but is not used in humans.

The WRHA says similar cases of severe neutropenia were reported in Alberta and British Columbia in 2008 and 2009 that were related to levamisole adulterated cocaine.

Both patients suffering from neutropenia were admitted to hospital over the last two weeks. One has since been discharged. Of the two cases, one was confirmed and the other was suspected.

Anyone who suspects they know someone who may be suffering from neutropenia or who wants more information can call Health Links – Info Santé at 788-8200.