Diluted chemo drugs given to 26 other Ontario patients

A London, Ont., hospital says 26 more cancer patients received watered-down chemotherapy drugs, in addition to the more than 1,100 patients in Ontario and New Brunswick.

Total number of patients impacted rises to 1,202 in Ontario, New Brunswick

A hospital in London, Ont., says 26 more cancer patients received overdiluted chemotherapy drugs, raising the number of people affected in that province and New Brunswick to 1,202.

The new total for London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) is 691 — 651 adults and 40 children, the hospital said Friday.

Neil Johnson of London Health Sciences Centre said the hospital sincerely regrets that more patients were impacted by overdiluted chemotherapy. (CBC)

"Given the significant number of LHSC patients impacted and the compressed timeline for the initial file assessment, LHSC has since conducted a second review as a due diligence measure," the hospital said on its website. "Today, as a result of this final review, LHSC is reporting publicly that an additional 26 patients have been identified as being impacted by the chemotherapy compounding issue.

Neil Johnson, the hospital's vice-president of cancer care, said that the organization has put in calls to all 26 patients, and has also sent letters.

"We are very confident this is the final number for our organization," said Johnson.

Of the adults, the hospital said it believes 117 died. What potential role the diluted chemotherapy may have played in the deaths is unknown. However, Johnson said he believes there's "no causal association between the chemotherapy and those deaths."

Johnson said medical staff had talked to over 300 patients and families at open forums this week.  He said the impact on the patients has been "quite variable."

"Cancer is a scary illness, and many of them have extra fears and concerns and anxieties now," he said. "Some were very understanding, and many of course are very angry and upset — a whole range of emotions."

Johnson said his organization will "be there to support" patients as they continue to deal with concerns about diluted chemotherapy.

On Thursday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne vowed to correct any issues that led to the diluted chemotherapy problem.

All 77 hospitals that provide chemotherapy have verified their remaining drug stocks are free of the problem, Ontario's health ministry said.

There is no regulatory oversight of Marchese Hospital Solutions, the Mississauga, Ont-supplier of the overdiluted chemotherapy. It is not accredited by the Ontario College of Pharmacists or licensed as a manufacturer by Health Canada.

Marchese Health Care of Hamilton, Ont. has three pharmacies that are accredited by the college.

In collaboration with the province, the Ontario College of Pharmacists is checking into how it could regulate a company like Marchese Hospital Solutions, said Lori DeCou, manager of communications for the college.

"What happens currently is the College of Pharmacists regulates pharmacists and pharmacies and Health Canada regulates drug manufacturers so there's this grey area that has developed and it wasn't clear who had oversights," Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews told CBC's Power & Politics last night. 

"That's not OK clearly and rather than taking time to sort it all out, I think it's really important the College of Pharmacists be given the authority where they can go in, in partnership with Health Canada."

The Ontario Hospital Association said Friday that hospitals and cancer care providers are working closely with Cancer Care Ontario, the health ministries in Ontario and New Brunswick, Health Canada, the Ontario College of Pharmacists and the independent expert review panel led by pharmacist Jake Thiessen to establish the facts.

Hospitals and cancer care providers are taking all steps to ensure that the chemotherapy they provide is safe and effective and offers the best possible care every time to earn the trust of patients and their families, the association said.

Marchese has said the problem occurred due to how the IV bags of chemotherapy were administered at the five hospitals, not in how they were prepared at the company.