Drug safety in the home
Oncology pharmacist, Lailaa Cajee, helps us understand the importance of drug safety in the home.
The development of numerous oral chemotherapy drugs (OCDs) has led to a new paradigm in cancer treatment. In 1995, there were only six oral chemotherapy drugs. This number grew to a whopping 90 in 2018. It’s estimated that more than 25% of the 400 cancer drugs in the pipeline are oral.
Whilst these medications are convenient and allow flexibility, they are not without complications or risks. How and where you store your OCDs affects how well the drug works.
Drug safety in the home is crucial for the patient but also for family members, caregivers, and pets. It’s also vital to ensure continued stability and efficacy of the medication.
Special care needed
OCDs require special care as they are in a different category of medication and can’t be treated as another over-the-counter paracetamol or vitamin pill.
OCDs are designed to kill cancer cells but can also damage normal cells in your body. Exposure to chemotherapy can be via contact with foods or everyday surfaces in the home. This demands absolute caution when handling OCDs to reduce exposure.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid all contact with these medications.
Handling of OCDs
Wash your hands before and after handling your OCDs. Keep your medicine away from food and other household items. If you are a caregiver, wear the recommended protective gear (gloves, mask and/or glasses) as instructed to protect yourself. Wash hands thoroughly after giving the medication.
Don’t use damaged medication
Damaged medication may make you sick. If your medication has changed colour, texture or smell, even if it hasn’t expired, don’t use it. Pills that stick together or are harder or softer than normal, or are cracked or chipped must not be used.
Always conform to the manufacturer’s information when it comes to handling and storage of your medication.
Unused or expired OCDs
Return them to your nearest oncology facility or pharmacy so that they can dispose of it correctly. Please do not flush it down the toilet or dispose of it in the trash.
Adherence to instructions from your healthcare provider is of critical importance. Take your medication as directed and if in doubt contact your oncology treatment centre or pharmacy.
Storage tips for your OCDs at home
OCDs need to be kept at the correct temperature according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
This information will be found in the package information leaflet in the medication box.
Optimal room temperature ranges between 20-25°C and fridge temperature ranges between 2-8°C.
Area of storage
In general, OCDs must be stored in a dry, dark and cool place. For room temperature medication, store it in a dresser drawer, or a kitchen cabinet away from the stove, sink and any hot appliances. You may also store medicine in a storage box on a shelf in a closet. A bathroom cabinet or kitchen windowsill attracts steam and heat so should be avoided.
Store it away from food. Use an emptied drawer or place it in a sealed container to protect nearby food. Don’t place medicine in or near the freezer compartment.
Also, don’t store medication in the refrigerator door because of temperature fluctuations occurring during the opening process.
Keep OCDs in its original packaging
If you are going to remove it, ensure you use a separate pill box for your OCDs and a separate one for your normal medication. Never mix medications in the same bottle.
Keep away from children and pets.
Keep away from anyone who is unable to read or understand the label.
Do not share or swop medication with fellow cancer patients.
MEET THE EXPERT – Lailaa Cajee
Lailaa Cajee is an experienced oncology pharmacist with a demonstrated history of working in the medical industry, skilled in antineoplastic drugs and aseptic technique processes. She is passionate about education and training and is the co-developer of the first oncology course in SA through the University of Witwatersrand.
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