Proper care is necessary when dispensing cancer therapy drugs

A patient with cancer usually wants to go through the most effective treatment possible. In some cases, the answer to that desire is to take chemotherapy. These harsh drugs are given via IV or by mouth. When it comes to chemotherapy drugs, it is vital that the patient be given only the intended drug in its intended dose. 

Many cancer patients are now given oral chemotherapy medications, which are some of the most toxic compounds made. The introduction of oral medications has introduced some possible errors into a patient's care regimen. In some cases, it is caused by improper labeling or miscommunication of verbal orders, but those aren't the only things that can lead to errors.

Some medical professionals have made medication errors because they are interrupted while processing the medication order. Others have made medication errors because they have to accommodate for drug shortages. No matter what the root cause, improper dosing of chemotherapy medications can have dire consequences.

Patients who are taking chemotherapy should be vigilant about their medications. The most common medication error for chemotherapy drugs is giving a patient the wrong dose. The second reason is dispensing the wrong medication. Rounding out the top three medication errors is dispensing the wrong number of days.

As an example, a patient died when methotrexate was prescribed to be taken weekly instead of daily. A patient died because Lomustine was prescribed daily instead of every 6 weeks.

Just based on those examples, it is easy to understand why anyone handling oral chemotherapy medications double check the orders, medication and all aspects of the medication's administration. When those factors aren't accounted for, patient harm or death can occur.

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