Study: Health, Safety Measures Lacking for Compounding Antineoplastic Drugs

Published September 9, 2015

A NIOSH study published in the September issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH) found that healthcare employers and workers do not always follow recommended safe handling practices for compounding antineoplastic drugs. According to NIOSH, there is no safe level of exposure to cancer-causing agents such as antineoplastic drugs, and these recent findings “suggest a mindset that incidental skin contact with antineoplastic drugs are acceptable and part of the job.”

Some nurses and pharmacy practitioners reported not always wearing chemotherapy gloves when compounding antineoplastic drugs because “skin exposure was minimal,” they were “too uncomfortable or difficult to use,” or gloves were not provided by the employer. “Skin exposure was minimal” was also one of the most common reasons that workers reported not always wearing the recommended gown when compounding antineoplastic drugs. Other common reasons included “an engineering control was being used” and wearing protective gowns was “not part of [the] protocol.”

Eleven percent of nurses and four percent of pharmacy practitioners in the study reported skin contact with antineoplastic drugs.

NIOSH urges employers to ensure that workers who handle these drugs are initially and periodically trained and that they know how to use the engineering controls and personal protective equipment in place. Employers should also ensure that safe-handling procedures reflecting national guidelines are in place, along with medical surveillance, exposure monitoring, and other administrative controls.

The study results are derived from the 2011 Health and Safety Practices Survey of Healthcare Workers, a federally sponsored survey of U.S. healthcare workers that addresses safety and health practices relative to use of hazardous chemicals.

For more information, read NIOSH’s press release.

AIHA members can access the full text of the JOEH article by logging in to the Member Center and following the link to the journal site under “Resources.” The article can easily be found by entering the article title, “Adherence to Precautionary Guidelines for Compounding Antineoplastic Drugs: A Survey of Nurses and Pharmacy Practitioners,” into the search engine at the top of the JOEH site.