Watered Down Chemo Given to Thousands of Patients in Compounding Error

Canadian officials recently announced their discovery that over 1,000 patients undergoing chemotherapy over the past year have received diluted versions of their medications. Affected patients were receiving treatment for breast, lung and bladder cancers. Seventeen patients at one hospital alone have died since beginning treatment. One center reported more than 600 affected patients, making it the most impacted so far.

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The problem was discovered by a pharmacy technician at a hospital late last month. The premixed drug cocktail, which contained too high a percentage of saline solution, was shipped out to at least four hospitals in Ontario and one in New Brunswick. Apparently the overfilling of bags that already contain saline is not that uncommon of a practice.

Among the answers sought by Canadian health ministry officials are the following:

How did the dilution of the drugs impact patients’ treatments and longevity? Was the product properly labelled? How did it pass through so many hands for nearly a year before one pharmacist technician in Peterborough noticed there was a problem? Who’s watching the medication that so many rely on to make them better?

One administrator in charge of a facility that administered some of the defective chemo drugs stated that they rely on the manufacturer to provide drugs consistent with what they are contracted to provide, and that they therefore do not perform random testing to confirm concentration of the products.

The drugs implicated in this incident (cyclophosphamide and gemcitabine) are regulated by Health Canada, but the direct oversight of the facilities that dispense and mix these drugs falls to the local province. Canadian officials reported that many of the patients who received the diluted treatment have been contacted, and that they are receiving expedited appointments with their respective oncologists.

What happened in this case is what is referred to as a compounding error, which occurs when a prescription drug is mixed either incorrectly, or results in an incorrect dosage, whether too strong or too weak of a concentration. While the manufacturer/compounder of the chemo drugs seems clearly liable for the errors that transpired in this case, the administering health care facilities may be partially liable as well, particularly since at least one official admitted to a lack of safety procedures to test for these sorts of problems. Probably the most unfortunate aspect of errors like this one is that we can never know for certain whether the cancer patients who died after treatment may have survived if they had received the correct dosing.

If you or someone you loved has been injured or died due to a compounding error in Maryland or Washington, D.C., you should contact an experienced pharmacy error attorney to discuss your legal rights. The pharmacy error attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have many years of experience in successfully representing individuals who have suffered due to being administered the incorrect medication or improperly compounded drugs as a result of a pharmacy misfill or hospital pharmacy error. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation. You can reach us by calling 1-800-654-1949 or by visiting our website.

More Blog Posts:

Utilization of Computer System May Lead to MILLIONS Fewer Medication Errors, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, published March 27, 2013
Common Pharmacy Errors that May Affect You, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, published March 19, 2013

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