How the Government Put 1,100 Lives at Risk

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An investigation is underway after five Canadian hospitals realized that more than 1,100 cancer patients received too low of a dosage of chemotherapy.An investigation is underway after five Canadian hospitals realized that more than 1,100 cancer patients received the wrong dosage of chemotherapy drugs—some for as long as a year. Now, peoples’ trust in the Canadian healthcare system is shaken.

“What is the implication of that dilution? Does it mean it would affect the outcomes of people’s treatment, their longevity,” Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Andrea Horwath told the Globe and Mail.

Five hospitals are still trying to figure out how so many patients received watered-down chemotherapy dosages and how it will impact their health. Some of the patients had been receiving the low dosages since February 2012, when incorrect amounts of saline were added to chemotherapy drugs, effectively watering down the dosage.

But it’s clear that this drug scare can cost lives. “It’s important to note that chemotherapy preparation and delivery is a complex process and as a result of this complexity, there are sources for potential error,” Dr. Carol Sawka, Cancer Care Ontario’s vice-president of clinical programs and quality initiatives, said in a statement. “We have put in many steps to minimize these potential sources of error and we will continue to ensure that patient safety and high quality care are the focus and the strength of the system.”

After the error was found, the hospitals immediately notified patients, and the drug supplier, Marchese Hospital Solutions, about the problem. The patients are currently receiving the correct treatments, but are concerned about what happened.

MORE: What the pharmaceutical industry is really like

In Canada, the federal government is in charge of monitoring drug manufacturers and the provincial governments manage pharmaceutical companies. Marchese is a private company in charge of mixing the chemotherapy drugs at those hospitals and so it wasn’t monitored by anyone in particular. Since Marchese is neither a pharmaceutical company nor a drug manufacturer, their work slipped through the cracks. If the government wants to contract work to a private company, there must be some method of control and evaluation in place so that these mistakes, which may cost lives, don’t occur.

In light of the drug scare, the Canadian government appointed a pharmacy expert to evaluate how Ontario manages cancer drugs and how the error occurred. They also created another working group to look at how this drug scare came about.

The Canadian public is demanding answers—especially those affected by the drug scare.

“If ever there was a time to point fingers, it’s when you have a cancer patient not getting the proper dose,” said Conservative Member of Parliament Lisa MacLeod in an interview.

Once the working group reviews their findings, hopefully, they’ll finally get answers.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
“Ontario government to investigate how hundreds of cancer patients received too-low chemo doses,” The Globe and Mail web site, April 3, 2013;, last accessed April 15, 2013.
Morrow, A., “Ontario to boost oversight to fight repeat of diluted chemo-drug delivery,” The Globe and Mail web site, April 11, 2013;, last accessed April 15, 2013.