At-Home Drug Errors Common for Kids With Cancer
Study author says parents need more support, better awareness
By Steven Reinberg
FRIDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- Children with cancer often have complex medication regimens -- sometimes as many as 20 drugs a day -- that they take at home, and mistakes are common, a new study finds.
Errors often occur when parents don't understand how to give the drugs, but mislabeled bottles and wrong prescriptions are also to blame, researchers say.
"Parents of children with cancer make many mistakes giving their children critical medicines, including chemotherapy at home," said lead researcher Dr. Kathleen Walsh, of the departments of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine in Worcester.
Injuries were often related to under-dosing pain medication, which was causing pain for the children, she said. "Sometimes parents wouldn't fill prescriptions, or give the proper dose," Walsh said.
"One thing that was surprising was the high rate of errors that go on," she added. "This high rate of errors calls us to remind doctors and parents that they need to be aware that home medication use is fraught with error, so they need to give the medicines exactly as they are told to do."
That's not to blame parents, Walsh noted. "Usually parents weren't aware they were making mistakes. They weren't aware that what they were doing could be dangerous or could decrease the effectiveness of the medications they were using," she said.
Parental "workarounds" to get kids to take medicines could make them less effective.
For example, one child wouldn't take a chemotherapy drug, so the parent sprinkled it on his dinner not realizing the drug doesn't work when taken with food, Walsh said.
"Another parent wasn't using a pill cutter, but using a knife to cut the medication and so the chemotherapy was crumbling and much of it was left on the table," she explained. "Parents didn't realize this was a mistake."
Walsh thinks parents need more support in how they use medications at home. "Parents need to understand you need to give medications exactly as prescribed and if you are going to change that in any way you need to tell the doctor," she said.