IT WAS TO BE expected that when the issue of chemotherapy for canine cancer patients came up, some would say we should not deprive humans of treatment for the sake of dogs.
Of course we shouldn’t, but it’s a false assumption that human patients are being negatively impacted by the fact Royal Inland Hospital provides chemo drugs to veterinarian clinics to treat canine patients.
Fortunately, the problem has been temporarily avoided with Friday’s decision by Interior Health to continue providing chemo drugs for dogs while an alternative is sought.
But it needs to be stressed that dog owners pay the full shot for chemotherapy for man’s best friend, and that there are no current drug shortages. If staff time is an issue, charges should simply reflect that.
I asked IHA a few questions about the situation at RIH with respect to providing chemo drugs to vet clinics, and received these answers from Kevin Peters, director of pharmacy services.
1. How many canine patients has RIH dispensed chemo drugs for in 2016?
We don’t track canine prescriptions specifically, but estimate about 20 canine patients per year (varying number of prescriptions, and length of therapy).
2. How much time does it take a pharmacist to fill an average prescription for a canine cancer patient?
Mixing time depends on the drug, but average 60 minutes to review patient information, check doses, mix/label and check each prescription.
3. Has there been a shortage of chemo drugs for human patients at any time in 2016 due to drugs being dispensed for canines?
There is no shortage of pharmaceuticals as far as I am aware.
4. How many human patients have been adversely affected by the dispensing of drugs for canine patients? That is, how many human patients have had their treatments delayed or otherwise negatively impacted?
The volume of patients has increased over the past few years, and we expect this trend to continue, so we need to prioritize our patients.
IHA also added this point-by-point statement:
· A letter is going out to the eight vet clinics affected to clarify circumstances after the initial notification sent out a month ago.
· IH has agreed to work with the vet clinics to minimize disruption to their services.
· A local pharmacy has the capability and interest to pick up the business of mixing chemotherapy for vets, which is standard practice in every other community in the health region. This arrangement, however, has not been confirmed.
· IH has no other option since the pharmaceutical supply contract clearly states that the drugs can’t be resold. IH Pharmacy only discovered this stipulation as it reviewed its workload and capacity in order to accommodate steadily rising demand for chemo for humans. IH must focus on its core service and human health.
· The contract with the pharmaceutical company is provincially negotiated and applies to all health authorities.