Short Communication

Systemic anticancer therapy (SACT) for lung cancer and its potential for interactions with other medicines

4 Sep 2017
Ryan Panchal

Background: Systemic anticancer therapy, comprising chemotherapy agents alongside targeted therapies and immunotherapy, is clinically indicated for late-stage lung cancer. It is delivered in regimens often containing multiple anticancer agents as well as supportive care medicines to reduce side effects, raising potential for polypharmacy and therefore the possibility of drug–drug interactions with medicines taken for comorbidities. A pharmacy-led process commonly performed to assist safe prescribing in secondary care is medicines reconciliation; its benefit in minimising interactions involving systemic anticancer therapy medicines has not been assessed previously.

Objectives: The objectives were to characterise the potential drug–drug interactions between systemic anticancer therapy medicines for lung cancer and other medicines and to evaluate the rate of medicines reconciliation being performed and the extent of documentation of potential interactions (clinical audit).

Methodology: This retrospective case series study involved recording the medicines being taken by lung cancer patients undergoing systemic anticancer therapy elicited in consultations at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, United Kingdom. Potential interactions were identified and characterised in terms of severity using the British National Formulary and other sources. Patient consultation records were also searched for documentation of medicines reconciliation and acknowledgement of potential drug–drug interactions.

Results: Twenty-three patients were included in this study. Eighty-eight potential drug–drug interactions were identified across 21 patients, 39% (34/88) of which involved the supportive care medicine dexamethasone. 3.0% of consultations included a documented medicines reconciliation, and 15.9% of potential interactions were documented in the notes, with no correlation between the two. Potentially serious interactions were significantly more likely to be documented (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Many potential drug–drug interactions involving anticancer agents and supportive care medicines exist; particular attention should be paid to dexamethasone. Documentation of interactions and medicines reconciliation occur much less often than expected, suggesting there is scope for implementing methods of safe prescribing to prevent adverse drug effects.

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