Cytostatic drugs constitute the cornerstone of chemotherapy treatment in the vast majority of oncology patients. These treatments are structured in chemotherapy cycles which usually combine different drugs, depending on the type of cancer being treated and its stage of development.
There is a wide variety of cytostatic drugs that act on different cellular mechanisms, either by impeding them from replicating, by inducing apoptosis (programmed cellular death) or by using other mechanisms of action. In general, these are drugs with a high level of toxicity which take advantage of the fact that tumorous cells replicate very quickly to act on them although, in many cases, they also act on the body’s normal cells if these are found to be in the division phase, which is why some of the more visible effects of chemotherapy are related to the hair, skin, and nails as these are areas of the body where cellular replication is very active.
Safety, a key aspect for handling cytostatic drugs
It is precisely because of the high toxicity of this kind of drug that means precautions need to be taken in handling it, both when preparing it in the pharmacy area of the hospital as well as when it is administered to the patient. Hospitals with oncology departments have specific units for preparing this kind of drug, in which strict safety protocols need to be followed to protect the staff who are handling it and preventing any kind of contamination (negative pressure, special air filter systems, handling in laminar flow cabinets and with personal protection equipment, etc.). These handling precautions are extended to the nursing staff who administer cytostatic drugs to the patient, which is usually done by way of infusion pumps.
Smart infusion pumps, such as arcomed’s Chroma series, play a very important role in protecting the patients themselves against possible errors. An additional safety measure coming about is that of drug libraries with restrictions which prevent erroneous doses, as well as the colour-coding of drugs, which is possible thanks to high-contrast colour touch screens.
In addition to preventing possible medication errors, which may have very serious consequences given the nature of the drugs we are talking about, in light of the irritating or event blistering nature of many of these drugs, nursing staff must also be trained to control risks of extravasation at any time.
Special requirements for infusing some cytostatic drugs
The characteristics of a large number of cytostatic drugs mean that specific material is required for them to be administered correctly. For example, many of them are incompatible with certain kinds of plastics or cannot be exposed to light. arcomed’s range of consumable material includes syringes, extension lines and accessories specifically designed for this kind of application. Our catalogue has a wide variety of consumables for oncology, with versions that are opaque to light or made out of materials compatible with different kinds of cytostatics. Check out our catalogue and do not hesitate to contact us if you would like some more information on specific applications.