The proper storage of chemotherapy drugs is crucial for the safety of patients and health care providers. This is because while chemotherapy drugs are designed to eliminate cancer cells, they do not discriminate. Meaning, they may also harm healthy cells as well.
They can sometimes be absorbed through the skin or lungs, giving rise to severe complications. Some of these common side effects of chemotherapy are:
Thus, handling and storing these life-saving yet potentially harmful drugs is vital to reduce exposure and diminish their deadly potential. This article discusses all you need to know about the transporting, handling, and storage of chemotherapy drugs.
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provide guidelines for the safe handling of IV and oral chemotherapy.
These guidelines discuss how to prepare, handle and administer the drugs safely.
The ASHP guidelines discuss, among other things, the proper handling of chemotherapy drugs from the point of receipt. This covers labeling, packaging, transporting, and storage.
1) Chemotherapy drugs classified as antineoplastic drugs on the NIOSH list must be unpacked in areas with negative pressure relative to the surrounding areas.
2) Do not remove the drugs from their external shipping containers in sterile compounding areas or any area that is under positive pressure to the surrounding area.
3) When you receive the drugs, examine the cartons for any outward signs of damage or breakage, as this is a crucial step in the receiving process. Your facility must have policies and procedures for handling damaged chemotherapy drug cartons or containers. For example, your policy could be that the damaged goods must return to the distributor using appropriate containment techniques.
4) Your receiving area should have chemotherapy drug spill kits containing complete PPEs, including a NIOSH-certified respirator. The respirator is a precaution against situations where there is no ventilation protection available while handling damaged drug containers.
6) Transport all damaged containers to a C-PEC designated for non-sterile compounding before opening.
A C-PEC is a ventilated device designed and operated to minimize worker and environmental exposures to chemotherapy drugs. It functions by controlling emissions of airborne contaminants through the following:
Staff handling drugs or cleaning areas where the drugs are stored or handled must be able to recognize the identifying labels used to distinguish these drugs and areas. In addition, the warning labels and signs must be clear to non-English readers so the effects of chemotherapy drugs are clear.
All chemotherapy drugs must be transported in a way that reduces environmental contamination in the event of accidental dropping.
Place the drug packages in sealed containers and label them with a unique identifier. Design carts and other transport devices with guards to protect against falling and breaking.
Everyone responsible for transporting chemotherapy drugs must have safety training, including spill control. They should also have immediately accessible spill kits.
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