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Global chemo drug shortage impacts SA

AAP logoAAP 12/10/2016 Marnie Banger

A chemotherapy drug shortage means some cancer patients in South Australia will receive larger injections delivered more slowly, SA Heath has revealed.

A global shortage of the chemotherapy agent etoposide phosphate, used to treat a range of cancers, means SA patients will be injected with an alternative form of the drug from late October.

SA Health says the alternative form, etoposide as base, is not directly interchangable with the phosphate version which can lead to dosing errors.

The department says the alternative form requires larger amounts of fluid to be injected into patients, takes longer to administer, and expires sooner.

"Longer infusion times will require cancer services to consider and plan for longer appointment times," an SA Health statement said.

"Shorter expiry dates may mean some higher doses may need to be made up on the day of treatment and on weekends."

The department said it will ensure all affected staff and patients are notified of the new process.

It sent a safety alert to staff asking them to immediately confirm they had received the message and circulate it among clinicians within 24 hours.

These requirements come after a damning report last month laid bare disturbing clinical governance failures in SA Health's handling of the state's chemotherapy dosing bungle.

The Australian Safety and Quality Commission review found staff involved had little or no knowledge of the department's incident management guidelines and failed to make an incident report soon enough.

Ten leukaemia patients were under-dosed at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre between June 2014 and January 2015.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration said the shortage of etoposide phosphate from supplier Bristol-Myers Squibb will last until April.

Cancers treated with the drug include Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and some kinds of leukaemia and lung cancer.

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