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Cancer Patients on Chemotherapy Surveyed About Use of All Other Drugs

Posted by medconsumers on June 1, 2007

People with cancer are particularly susceptible to drug interactions because they take multiple drugs to treat: 1) their disease, 2) the side effects of the cancer drugs 3) and their other health problems. A new survey of Canadian cancer patients found that potential interactions were most likely to involve the medications for their non-cancer problems, such as the anticoagulant warfarin, antihypertensive drugs, corticosteroids, and anticonvulsants.

The survey, published in the April 18 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, was conducted by Rachel P. Riechelmann, MD, Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto, and colleagues. Questionnaires were given to 405 cancer patients who were receiving systemic anticancer therapy as outpatients. Most of the respondents were women (259) with a median age of 58 years; and most had breast cancer (159).

All were asked about additional drugs taken in the previous four weeks. The survey showed that 27% of the cancer patients reported taking drugs with the potential for interactions. Of those, 9% were classified as major and 77% as moderate. Duplicate prescribing of drugs was infrequent.

This study has a major limitation, according to its authors, because it was not designed to determine how often these interactions actually resulted in adverse consequences for the cancer patients. Instead, the researchers looked for drug combinations with the potential for adverse interactions.

Dr. Riechelmann and colleagues say that their results point to the need for studies that will determine the frequency of adverse drug interactions in cancer patients.

Maryann Napoli, Center for Medical Consumers© June 2007

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