Oral chemotherapy drugs have become a popular alternative to IV chemotherapy treatments for many cancer patients. Oral antineoplastic agents can improve the quality of cancer patients’ lives; however, they are not without risk. Medication errors can have severe and sometimes deadly consequences.
Chemotherapy drugs are highly toxic. The slightest mistake could cause significant harm or death to a patient. The potential for mistakes exists at every stage of treatment; from the doctor prescribing the medication, to the pharmacist filling the prescription, to the patient responsible for self-administering oral chemotherapy treatments.
When prescribing oral antineoplastic medications to patients, it is crucial that physicians take precautions to avoid mistakes.
- Many chemotherapy drugs have similar names that sound alike, look alike, and end in the suffix “nib.” If a doctor accidentally orders the wrong medication, he or she could be putting a patient’s life at risk. Using the TALLman lettering system can help physicians easily identify drugs with similar names, e.g. SORAFenib or SUNITinib.
- Doctors are notorious for bad handwriting, and in some cases poor penmanship has resulted in deadly medication errors. By ordering prescriptions electronically, physicians can reduce the risk of medication mistakes caused by illegible handwritten prescriptions.
- Electronic medical records (EMRs) can also reduce anti-neoplastic medication errors. EMRs provide doctors with readily accessible patient histories and previous medical information, reducing the possibility that a patient will be prescribed too much oral chemotherapy medication over a given time period. Electronically stored patient information, such as a patient’s weight, can also help prevent accidental overdoses.
- Adverse drug interactions in patients taking oral cancer medications are common and can be severe. Doctors must note all medications that patients report taking and warn patients of the possibility of adverse drug interactions.
- When prescribing oral cancer treatment, doctors should provide patients with clear instructions on the correct dosage amount and the correct frequency of the dosage.
The rate of pharmacy dispensing errors is significantly higher among oral chemotherapy prescriptions than other prescription drugs.
- In addition to having similar names, many oral cancer medications are nearly identical in size, shape, and color despite varying strengths and compositions. Pharmacists must be vigilant to ensure that they are dispensing the correct medication.
- It is imperative that explicit dosage instructions are clearly stated on prescription labels. Because of their high toxicity, some oral chemotherapy drugs can only be taken once over a period of days or weeks. If taken too often, e.g. once a day rather than once a week, the results can be deadly. Improper dosage is the most common oral cancer medication error.
- Pharmacists must also be sure that they are dispensing the correct number of pills. Patients are often told that in order to properly complete a treatment course, they must continue taking their prescribed medication until it is gone. If a course of oral anti-neoplastic medication is accidentally extended beyond the recommended length of time, patients could be harmed by prolonged exposure to these toxic drugs.
Cherry Hill Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Folkman Law hold Medical Providers Accountable for Medication Errors
If you have been harmed or injured by an oral chemotherapy mistake, or if you have lost a loved one due to a prescription drug injury, you may have grounds to file a claim against a negligent doctor or pharmacy. Cherry Hill medical malpractice lawyers at Folkman Law represent clients in medical malpractice lawsuits in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Our offices are conveniently located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Philadelphia and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Contact us online or call 856-354-9444 for a free phone consultation. You may be entitled to significant compensation for your injury or loss.