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Pediatric Errors for Chemo Patients Cause Concern

Statistics show that most harmful pediatric chemotherapy errors are due to an inability of contacting patients.

According to a study conducted by Dr. Marlene Miller at the John Hopkins School of Medicine, 85 percent of these errors are not identified until patients have received the prescription.

Error Statisticss

The U.S. medication error-reporting database, MEDMARX, claims that 310 chemotherapy errors for young patients had been reported from 69 different institutions.

Statistics show that about eight out of 10 of these errors actually reached the patient and were not caught by administration. Of these, 16 percent were harmful and required the patient’s to receive further care.

What Accounts for These Errors?

Most pediatric errors, about 41 percent are occurring as the result of human error. 31 percent of the cases are due to dispensing errors and 23 percent occurred because of mistakes in dosage.

With chemotherapy medications, the opportunity for error is greater considering the strength of the drugs.

“I can give four times the amount of Motrin, and you will be fine,” explains Miller. “You cannot do that for chemo; they have a very narrow safety window.”

Action Being Taken


According to Miller, most hospitals use computer systems to determine the proper dosages to give to each patient, but oftentimes these systems exclude chemotherapy medications.

“Our struggle is to make something more error-free,” states Miller.

Sarah Scarpace a pediatric clinical pharmacist at UCSF suggests that the “time out” rule be enforced when it comes to handling chemotherapy medications.

“Everyone should take a ‘time out’ to verify this is the right drug. A moment when everyone steps back and makes sure the correct drug is being given at the right time, dose, to the right patient.”

(Source: The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

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