A hazardous drug is a drug which displays genotoxicity, teratogenicity, carcinogenicity or impairment of fertility or major organs of the body. A hazardous drug may also be any therapeutic agent such as antineoplastic, antiviral, cytotoxic and immunosuppressive agents. All investigational drugs are treated as hazardous drugs unless adequate information exists showing potential toxicity or exposure risks to employees and patients that exclude the drug. Accidental skin contact, ingestion, inhalation or injection may occur during handling (Huyhn, Jalundhwala & Subramaniam, 2010). Departments with employees handling hazardous drugs regularly must ensure that the employees adhere to the procedures outlined in the safe handling of drugs policy; develop additional written procedures as important and ensure adherence to them; comply with hazard communication policy;
There are various dangers of handling hazardous drugs. These include skin rashes, congenital defects, infertility, cancers and serious bodily harm. Frequent use of hazardous drugs in life-threatening and critical conditions poses exposure risks. Pharmacists have a high likelihood of exposure. This is because they are involved in handling, preparing and storing the drugs. Pharmacists should ensure that all pharmacy personnel get adequate education and training on standards and regulations (OSHA, 2012). All personnel should be continually educated to be up to date on protocols, safe practice and regulations. Pharmacists should develop and implement these training programs. Trainees should be provided with didactic reviews on hazardous drugs and properties.
According to OSHA, personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used to reduce risks. These include gloves, face and eye protection, gowns, hair, shoe and sleeve coverings. All staff members should understand the limitations of their PPE. Not all risks can be mitigated through PPE (CDC, 2013). Medical surveillance can help in the protection against hazardous drugs. Staff members who work with these substances should be monitored using a medical surveillance program. This collects data, analyzes information and detects changes in health status to workers who are regularly exposed.
CDC. (2013, July 10). Workplace Safety & Health Topics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 17, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/hazdrug/
Huynh, T., Jalundhwala, Y., & Subramaniam, V. (2010). Hazardous drugs: Maintaining standards of safe pharmacy practice. Pharmacy Practice News, 32(12), 6-7.
OSHA. (2012, December 1). Safety and Health Topics | Hazardous Drugs. Safety and Health Topics | Hazardous Drugs. Retrieved March 17, 2014, from https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/hazardousdrugs/