We at ChemotherapyAdvisor.com are gearing up for our coverage of the upcoming annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Yours truly will be in Chicago covering the conference, and I hope to meet some of you there and hear what you think about our website!

Speaking of ASCO, did you happen to catch the release of the latest ASCO standards for the safe administration of chemotherapeutic agents? The 2011–2012 version is the first revision of the 2009 standards, which were written to minimize medication errors in cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy.

I had an opportunity to interview one of the authors on the standards: Martha Polovich, PhD, RN, AOCN, Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist for the Duke Oncology Network, Durham, NC. Dr. Polovich, a member of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), represented ONS on the steering committee that developed the original ASCO Chemotherapy Safety Standards in 2009 and reviewed them for the 2011–2012 version.

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According to Dr. Polovich, unlike the 2009 version of the standards, which applied only to patients receiving chemotherapy in an ambulatory setting, the latest updates extend to patients who are receiving chemo in all settings, including inpatient and outpatient settings.

Changes include, but are not limited to, more stringent verification procedures prior to initiation of a chemotherapy regimen. As written in the standards “…Prior to each cycle of chemotherapy, at least two practitioners or personnel approved by the practice/institution to prepare or administer chemotherapy, verify the following information: drug name, dose, and volume; rate and route of administration; expiration dates/times,” and more. The changes include assessment regarding psychosocial concerns (e.g., anxiety or depression) and need for support, with action taken, when indicated.

According to the standards, each patient is also given written documentation, including, but not limited to, the following information: goals of therapy; planned duration of chemotherapy, drugs, and schedule; and information on possible short- and long-term adverse effects.

Why were these changes necessary?

“Safety is always the main issue, and that safety is always applicable, no matter where the chemo is administered,” says Polovich. “When the standards were developed in 2009, it was agreed that they would be reviewed on a regular basis, and updated based on feedback from ASCO and ONS members, so that they would always reflect what is considered the current standard of care.”

For more information on the current ASCO safety standards,click here.

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