Overdose management protocols

Approximately 1 in 2 Canadians diagnosed with cancer will receive chemotherapy as part of their treatment plan.  While chemotherapy is very effective as a treatment for cancer, too much of a drug can not only cause side effects but may be potentially fatal. As a result, the use of these highly toxic drugs is carefully managed by highly trained health care professionals.  However, the health care environment is very busy and the number of drugs being given as part of a treatment plan is increasing. These factors – and many others – can lead to an increase risk of a medication incident, including an unintentional overdose.

While CAPCA is working with human factors engineers, researchers and clinicians to reduce the risk of a medication incident, we are also committed to ensuring that information is available as quickly and easily as possible to manage unintentional overdoses when they do – rarely –occur.

The goal of this collaborative work is to provide healthcare professionals working in cancer treatment centres, hospitals, emergency rooms, poison control centres, and in the community with the most up to date information, in a format that lets them find what they need to know quickly and efficiently.

CAPCA is actively partnering with the developers of a sophisticated scientific database used by toxicologists and poison control centres across North America to develop concise clinical summaries to guide clinicians in the event of an unintentional chemotherapy overdose.  Each protocol will be reviewed by members of an expert panel of Canadian and U.S. medical oncologists and oncology pharmacists.

The first set of overdose protocols include drugs that are:

  • frequently used
  • pose a significant risk of harm if an overdose occurs; and
  • have been given in doses large enough to require some kind of advanced treatment or rescue therapy.

Fluorouracil – the drug that was involved in the 2006 adverse event  – is among this first set of high priority chemotherapy drugs.

More information regarding access to the protocols will be posted on this website in the spring of 2011.