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Oral Systemic Therapy

The use of oral systemic therapy (chemotherapy taken in pill form) for cancer is increasing rapidly. In the past three years, two-thirds of all new cancer drugs approved for funding in Canada were oral agents. At first glance, oral agents appear safer and easier for patients. However, this is not necessarily the case:

 Oral chemotherapy is just as toxic as IV chemotherapy

 Unlike IV chemo, which is given in cancer centres by specialists, oral chemo is dispensed from community pharmacies and taken by patients at home without the same safety measures

 There is almost no verification of oral prescriptions before they leave the hospital setting

CCNS has drafted standards for ordering, verifying and dispensing oral systemic therapy. In fall 2014, an impact assessment was conducted against these draft standards in Nova Scotia hospitals. The draft standards, impact assessment summary and proposal to address the identified needs will be submitted to DHW soon, following the Policy Review process, which occurred in 2014. CCNS has developed tools to support community pharmacists and other non-oncology health professionals who work with patients who are taking oral systemic therapy.

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