Cancer Patients Get Wrong Chemotherapy Dosage, Human Error To Blame

Chemotherapy patients received watered-down doses of treatment, according to hospital officials. Cancer Care Ontario announced Tuesday that premixed bags of cancer treatment contained too much saline, diluting the chemotherapy medication. Cyclophosphamide is the agent used to treat breast cancer and Hodgkin's lymphoma. Gemcitibine treats lung, pancreatic, ovarian and breast cancer.

A total of 1,176 cancer patients were affected in Ontario and New Brunswick, Canada. At London Health Sciences Centre, Windsor Regional Hospital, Lakeridge Health and Peterborough Regional Health Centre, 990 patients were affected. At the Saint John Regional Hospital in New Brunswick, the total number of patients that received the lower doses of cyclophosphamide was 186.

"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, vice-president of clinical operations at Cancer Care Ontario said in a statement. 

Cancer Care Ontario says the issue was discovered in late March and the chemotherapy stock solutions of cyclophosphamide and gemcitabine were removed from the four hospitals. Working with the supplier to find out the exact cause, Dr. Ken Schneider, chief of oncology at Windsor Regional Hospital, suggests that human error caused the problem with the cancer cocktail. 

"It's our understanding right now from what we have heard from the hospitals that they outsourced the actual mixing of two of these chemotherapy drugs to a supplier and the supply that was actually administered to the patient resulted in the patient receiving slightly less than the intended dose of the drugs," Sawka said, as reported by CBS News.

The hospitals are reaching out to the patients and their families informing them of the error and are also providing additional support and information.

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