Caring for a loved one diagnosed with cancer is not easy.  During their treatment and when they pass on, what are the steps for family members or caregivers in handling the toxic anti-cancer medications and containers that remain?

“There are no standardized guidelines for the home setting, and that’s a problem,” says Dr. Siu Fun Wong.  “Often times, medications are flushed down the toilet or thrown into the trash where they can leach into the landfill and eventually taint drinking water.  That should never happen.”

Dr. Wong and the CUSP Capstone Team attended the California Board of Pharmacy Public Education and Communication Committee meeting in Sacramento in March 2017 to raise awareness with the Board of Pharmacy about the need for guidelines and education regarding the need for safe handling and disposal of hazardous medications. The team brought forth a proposal to mandate the inclusion of a hazardous medication symbol as a patient-focus labeling requirement.

A universal symbol currently used to signify hazardous medications at the institutional settings can promote for easy identification of such product by a lay person looking at the bottle label, but more work is needed to close the loop on recognizing and recapturing unused drugs for proper disposal.  Dr. Wong says, “We are trying to drive a cost-effective, automated approach to best identify hazardous drugs as they are being dispensed.”

CUSP PharmD student Michael Phan presented the approaches the group is using to tackle the issue.  “The first being through gathering information on the current attitudes and awareness on this topic, which we hope to use to develop a proposal that can address any gaps and barriers. The second avenue is to raise awareness of this issue through policy proposals and informational sessions.  Examples of which were making a policy proposal at the American Pharmacists Association – Academy of Student Pharmacists, and even going directly to those who are responsible for making these changes — the California Board of Pharmacy!”

“The Capstone team views this as a problem that needs to be solved for everyone – the manufacturer, pharmacy, the patient and the larger community,” Dr. Wong emphasized.  “The goal of the CUSP Capstone team is to serve as advocates” to press for policies that serve the greater public health.