Objective: To characterise current safety practices for the use of oral chemotherapy. Design: Written questionnaire survey of pharmacy directors of cancer centres. Setting: Comprehensive cancer centres in the United States. Results: Respondents from 42 (78%) of 54 eligible centres completed the survey, after consulting with 89 colleagues. Clinicians at 29 centres used handwritten prescriptions, two used preprinted paper prescriptions, and six used electronic systems for most oral chemotherapy prescribing. For six commonly used oral chemotherapies, on average 10 centres required a diagnosis on the prescription, 11 required the protocol number, four required the cycle number, nine required double checking by a second clinician, 14 required a calculation of body surface area, and 14 required a calculation of dose per square metre of body surface area. Only a third of centres requested patients' written informed consent when oral chemotherapy was given off protocol. Nearly a quarter (10) of centres had no formal process for monitoring patients' adherence. In the past year respondents at 10 centres reported at least one serious adverse drug event related to oral chemotherapy, and respondents at 13 centres reported a serious near miss. Conclusion: Few of the safeguards routinely used for infusion chemotherapy have been adopted for oral chemotherapy at US cancer centres. There is currently no consensus at these centres about safe medication practices for oral chemotherapy.
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