BPC 2008: Pharmacists’ roles in cancer medicine

The roles of the pharmacist in chemotherapy was among the topicsdiscussed in a British Pharmaceutical Conference 2008 session on cancermedicine. Benedict Lam reports

by Benedict Lam

The roles of the pharmacist in chemotherapy was among the topics discussed in a British Pharmaceutical Conference 2008 session on cancer medicine. Benedict Lam reports


A clear remit of the pharmacist’s roles in the multidisciplinary cancer care team is needed, said Geoff Saunders, consultant oncology pharmacist at Christie Hospital, Manchester. He described these roles as:

  • Managing medicines
  • Managing risks
  • Promoting patient safety
  • Ensuring appropriate prescribing
  • Improving access to treatment
  • Improving the patient’s experience

He thinks pharmacists should put patient care at the core of what they do. This is occurring, especially in oncology pharmacy. Over his career, he has seen how oncology pharmacists evolved from working in aseptic units, with no patient , to working closely with patients and doctors to improve patient outcomes and experience.

Mr Saunders said that specific roles for pharmacists in chemotherapy clinics include obtaining consent from patients who require chemotherapy, making and recording pharmaceutical interventions, monitoring treatment and toxicity, prescribing support therapies and conducting follow-up appointments.

Although patient adherence to cancer treatment is important, said Mr Saunders, some patients could be “over-compliant” and deny suffering side effects for fear of having their treatment withdrawn. He believes pharmacists need to reassure patients that their care will not be compromised if treatments need to be altered or stopped because of side effects.

Pharmacists need to learn new skills, including the ability to clinically assess treatment, which is becoming more important, especially for those who want to become supplementary prescribers, said Mr Saunders. This is because pharmacists will need to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment they prescribe, he said.

Also, pharmacists can develop their clinical examination skills with the support of their colleagues within the healthcare team, he added.

The British Oncology Pharmacy Association and the College of Pharmacy Practice faculty of cancer pharmacy have supported pharmacists working in these extended roles, added Mr Saunders. They have done so by helping pharmacists look at their own practice and advising them of ways to assess it against current competency frameworks.

Citation: The Salvadore URI: 10035677

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  • Geoff Saunders: pharmacists’ roles in cancer clinics should be clearly set out

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