Annette Kempston - ISOPP 2014 Summary Report

This spring I was fortunate enough to attend my first pharmacy conference that was specific to oncology.  ISOPP XIV was held in beautiful Montreal and thanks to a generous grant from CAPhO I was able to enhance my knowledge on several topics that relate directly to my practice as well as interact with like minded professionals from over 29 different countries.
There were several sessions that focused on different aspects of safe handling of chemotherapy as well as improving procedures to reduce medication errors.  One session entitled NIOSH Updates to its Guidance of the Safe Handling of Hazardous Drugs was very informative and highlighted that since 2005 over 300 new papers have been published on hazardous drugs. It was also mentioned how the development of devices and robotics continues to evolve to minimize worker exposure. As health care professionals we always put the safety of patients as the utmost priority and sometimes can neglect our own. As more studies are done we are becoming more aware of the risks involved in handling such a wide variety of known carcinogens and the importance of wearing PPE and utilizing technology to our advantage. 
A session discussing IT error prevention highlighted deaths that have occurred as a result of inadvertent IT administration of medications intended for parenteral use. Causes identified included mislabeled syringes, treatments not being administered in specialty units, treating outside regular working hours and mistaking vincristine for a different IT medication. The key recommendation for prevention of such errors is to abolish the use of syringes as a method of administration for potentially neurotoxic medications and prepare them in minibags as these cannot be connected to a spinal needle. 
A session reviewing best practices in chemotherapy was partially presented by Roxanne Dobish. Roxanne has played a key role in the development and implementation of embedded checklists at our sites in Alberta. She reviewed the errors that led to the development of these worksheets and how the worksheets were used. Using the embedded checklists helps to clearly distinguish technician responsibilities from those of the pharmacist, it creates clear STOP check points as well as minimize confirmation bias. Although the checklists can look long and wordy at first, I can attest that with familiarity, the process is quick and efficient and also makes training new pharmacists much easier.
ISOPP provides a unique opportunity to interact with colleagues from around the world. I attended a Hot Topics cluster discussion and learned about some of the differences in practice in Singapore and Australia compared to Canada. Those representatives were particularly interested in learning about technician regulation and how that was being rolled out in Canada as they anticipate similar legislation will be adopted in their respective countries. The closing Plenary entitled Global Perspectives in Oral Antineoplastics Agents was interesting as 6 different countries discussed how and where oral antineoplastics are dispensed and how they are trying to manage safety issues. Each country acknowledged there are challenges in patients obtaining oral antineoplastics from external pharmacies where educational and safety standards are often not met. Singapore was an exception where medication is only dispensed through the public sector and a BSE hood is used for counting. One important point was that education on oral chemotherapy provides a unique opportunity for pharmacists to really become involved with patient care and make a difference to their outcomes. 
Attending ISOPP was a fantastic learning experience. I look forward to approaching my practice with a heightened sense for safety and a greater awareness of the resources that are available to me when the need arises. I will continue to promote the oral chemo management program we offer at our site as I agree that pharmacists are uniquely positioned to assist this particular patient population. 
I would like to sincerely thank CAPhO for this excellent opportunity and I look forward to attending similar conferences in the future.