Following the widespread contamination problems at several compounding facilities, hospitals and pharmacies have begun to reevaluate the potential options for improving sterility and quality of compounded IV fluids and related products.
One potential option is the use of robots in lieu of pharmacists or technicians. One such robot is called RIVA, a fully automated IV compounding robot. The vice president of marketing at the company which sells RIVA stated that hospitals were already expressing an interest in their product prior to the contamination issues, but that interest had piqued following the incidents.
The primary draw of such automated systems is the fact that it minimizes the potential for human error, given the fact that there is very little human manipulation involved in the process. In essence, an individual inputs the stock drug vials, the bags to be filled, empty syringes, and whatever other components may be required, sets the parameters for production, presses the start button, and then takes the finished and labeled mixed bags or syringes from the output chutes. Thus, in addition to lowering the chance for human error in actually compounding the drugs, there is also a considerably lower chance of contamination, since the robots contain an aseptic environment, and the only touching happens before and after the mixing has occurred.
Additionally, the RIVA machine in particular has multiple accuracy checks in place. These include:
- weighing of drug vials before and after use
- weighing of syringes prior to and following filling
- comparison of photos of drug labels with file photos, and
- bar code scanning
Preparations failing any of these tests are automatically rejected by the machine. Additionally, pulsed ultraviolet light flashes at vials throughout various sanitation points. Throughout periodic testing for contamination following installation of a RIVA unit has failed to produce a single positive culture thus far.
The unit operates 18 to 22 hours daily, during which time it can fill approximately 400 to 500 syringes. The robot can be programmed to produce batches of individualized patient specific doses, or larger batches of the same drug and dose. According to IHS, the company who sells RIVA, preparing 350 syringes for the machine requires approximately three hours of a technician’s time.