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Watchdog to Be Set on Oral Chemotherapy, Warns Experts

A survey conducted by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts has come out with findings that oral chemotherapy drugs need to be monitored, prescribed and// coordinated in a better way.

Listing cases of unfortunate events, sourced from the institutes that participated in the research, Dr Lawrence Shulman, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said findings underline the importance of forging a consensus in the oncology field on standardized safeguards and practices for prescribing and monitoring the use of these drugs.

Many centers had no formal system for monitoring patients taking the drugs, which are becoming increasingly popular internationally.

"Given how quickly oral chemotherapies have become standard care for a growing number of cancers, we were not surprised to find variations in how organizations prescribe and monitor the use of these agents," said Dr Saul Weingart, the president of patient safety at Dana-Farber.

An example was that on prescriptions for the six most common oral chemotherapies: Only 26 percent of the centers required a patient's diagnosis; only 9 percent required a patient's treatment schedule and length of treatment; and only 9 percent required a patient's body surface area calculation, which is used to determine correct and safe drug dose.

The researchers found that almost 70 percent of the centers used handwritten orders for most of the oral chemotherapy prescriptions, 5 percent used preprinted paper prescriptions, and 14 percent used computer-based prescription order entry systems.

Yet another expert thinks that cancer centers need to treat oral chemotherapy drugs in the same way they treat intravenous ones.

"We can't assume that because a drug is an oral drug it is going to be properly prescribed, properly dispensed and properly confirmed that the patient has taken it," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer at the American Cancer Societ y. "This study raises the question whether we, as doctors, need to be more vigilant."

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