Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Pharmacy Assistant Who Found Diluted Cancer Drugs Says Label Raised Questions

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Pharmacy Assistant Who Found Diluted Cancer Drugs Says Label Raised Questions

Article excerpt

Pharma assistant discovered diluted drugs

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TORONTO - An Ontario pharmacy assistant who discovered that chemotherapy drugs administered to more than 1,200 cancer patients in Ontario and New Brunswick were diluted says he doesn't consider himself a hero.

"It's just part of the process, it's part of our job, and it just happens that this check that we made had a broader impact than we certainly would have anticipated," Craig Woudsma, 28, said Tuesday.

"But definitely not a hero, no."

The pharmacy team in the small Peterborough hospital that caught the problem didn't want to go public with their story initially, according to hospital officials.

"We're not looking for glory or anything like that," Woudsma told an Ontario legislative committee that's investigating the drug scare.

"What we do is kind of the same thing day in and day out, and we're there for the patients. We didn't want to add to the spectacle that it kind of became."

Woudsma, who was certified as pharmacy assistant in 2007 and started working in the hospital's oncology department in 2011, said he started asking questions when he saw the bags from Marchese Hospital Solutions required refrigeration.

Another pharmacy assistant noticed that the bags containing the drug-and-saline mixture from the previous supplier Baxter didn't need to be refrigerated, but the new ones from Marchese Hospital Solutions did, Woudsma told the committee.

It was the first day the hospital was using the Marchese mixture, so he compared the labels on both bags, he said. He noticed that the labels on the Marchese bags didn't provide the total volume or the final concentration like the Baxter labels.

He also noticed that the electronic worksheet used to calculate the dose for each patient used the final concentration indicated on the Baxter label.

It was later discovered that the bags contained too much saline, which watered down the prescribed drug concentrations by up to 20 per cent. Some of the patients in Ontario and New Brunswick had been receiving the diluted drugs for as long as a year.

Woudsma said he's surprised that the problem was so widespread. But the affected patients should know that things will change. …

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