News

Third party to oversee diluted chemotherapy drug investigation

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

Premier Kathleen Wynne, left, and Health Minister Deb Matthews, background, check out state-of-the-art imaging equipment at the official opening of the Louise Temerty Breast Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre on Thursday. (ANTONELLA ARTUSO/Toronto Sun)

Premier Kathleen Wynne, left, and Health Minister Deb Matthews, background, check out state-of-the-art imaging equipment at the official opening of the Louise Temerty Breast Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre on Thursday. (ANTONELLA ARTUSO/Toronto Sun)

TORONTO - 

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the province is asking an independent, third party to investigate after cancer patients were given diluted doses of chemotherapy drugs at a handful of Ontario hospitals, as well as in New Brunswick.

“It’s unacceptable that this should have happened, that the doses would not have been accurate,” Wynne said.

Wynne was at the official opening of the Louise Temerty Breast Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre Thursday, along with her partner Jane who battled breast cancer.

Cancer Care Ontario announced Tuesday that 990 patients undergoing cancer treatment at London Health Sciences Centre, Windsor Regional Hospital, Lakeridge Health and Peterborough Regional Health Centre had been given watered-down doses of cyclophosphamide and gemcitabine — two drugs used in chemotherapy — starting in February 2012. Another 200 patients in New Brunswick were also affected.

The patients received an estimated 3% to 20% less than prescribed by their doctors, Cancer Care Ontario said.

CCO vice-president Dr. Carol Sawka said it’s impossible at this point to determine if these people suffered negative health outcomes as each case will have to be assessed individually by the patient’s oncologist.

“We’re all very keen to understand the source of the error and to put into place everything that is necessary to prevent this from happening again,” Sawka said.

The potentially toxic medication was mixed offsite at a private firm for safety reasons, Sawka said.

Health Minister Deb Matthews said the College of Pharmacists and Health Canada are also looking into the situation.

Marchese Health Centre, which supplied the drugs, has denied its solutions were defective.

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