Committee to investigate diluted chemo drugs
Watered down cancer drugs given to 1,200 patients in Ontario and New Brunswick
A legislative committee will investigate how watered down chemotherapy drugs were given to about 1,200 patients in Ontario and New Brunswick.
The committee will look into the apparent lack of oversight, standards and monitoring of companies which provided the diluted drugs.
Marchese Hospital Solutions, a Mississauga, Ont.-based company, was contracted to prepare the chemotherapy drugs for four hospitals in Ontario and one in New Brunswick, where 186 patients received the diluted drugs.
The committee will also probe Ontario's pharmaceutical regulations and inspection procedures, and what impact the diluted drugs may have had on cancer patients.
Some patients, including children, were given the drugs for up to a year.
The governing Liberals have appointed a pharmacy expert to review the province's cancer drug system and put together a working group that includes doctors, Cancer Care Ontario and Health Canada.
The legislative committee is expected to deliver a report within 90 days, with a possible 30-day extension.
New Brunswick Premier David Alward said that safeguards are needed to restore confidence in the health-care system,
"We need to make sure that we can give full confidence to the people of New Brunswick or Ontario — or Canada ultimately — that the proper system is in place, so that they can have full confidence in it," he told The Canadian Press.
"We have a very good system. But we can't afford, in any way, to take chances that it's not working the way it's supposed to."
Alward said he spoke to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne about the cancer drug scare when he met with her Monday in Toronto.
"Are people concerned and are we concerned? Absolutely," he said.
"That's why I'm very pleased to see how quickly the government of Ontario has moved forward with a decision on the investigation."
Ontario's governing Liberals have appointed a pharmacy expert, Jake Thiessen, to review the province's cancer drug system. A working group that includes doctors, Cancer Care Ontario, Health Canada and others are also looking at the issue.
Marchese said products not defective
Marchese said its products weren't defective, and suggested that the problem wasn't how the drugs were prepared but how they were administered at the hospitals.
But there is a gap in the oversight of companies like Marchese that mix drugs for hospitals, which usually do it themselves.
The company falls into a jurisdictional grey area, with both the Ontario College of Pharmacists and Health Canada unable to agree on who was responsible for the facility.
The college oversees pharmacists, including those who may have worked independently for Marchese Hospital Solutions. Health Canada oversees drug manufacturers.
But Marchese wasn't considered a pharmacy or a drug manufacturer.
Wynne said last week that both Health Canada and the college are working to close that gap, and the college is willing to provide oversight of new compounding facilities like Marchese.
Like Wynne, Alward said he won't tell hospitals to mix their own chemotherapy from now on. It's a decision that should be left up to health-care professionals, he said.
The hospital in New Brunswick that received the watered down chemotherapy drugs has already gone back to preparing its own.