Transforming Cancer Care: Robotic Helpers in Medication Mixing

This text is based on the article Pharmacy robots: improving the safety and efficiency of chemotherapy preparation, Originally published in All.Can Efficiency Hub

In the complex realm of cancer treatment, a crucial process called compounding—customizing chemotherapy medication for individual patients—has faced challenges. Errors in this intricate mixing can lead to wasted medications, and exposure to harmful chemicals poses risks to pharmacy staff. To tackle these issues, two prominent US cancer centres, Allegheny General Hospital Pharmacy and Johns Hopkins Weinberg Pharmacy, have introduced a futuristic solution: robotic systems to automate the compounding process.

These Intravenous (IV) compounding robots operate within a secure system, significantly reducing staff exposure to hazardous substances and improving the precision of chemotherapy mixing. These robots, armed with a drug library and precise scales, not only protect staff but also minimize errors by rejecting end products falling outside the correct weight range.

Although these robots need input from pharmacy staff on doses and patient details, they take the lead from there. The automated system prepares personalized doses, maintaining electronic records for all compounded chemotherapies. This innovation has not only lowered the risk of staff injuries but has also significantly reduced the rejection rate of doses due to inaccuracies. At Johns Hopkins Weinberg Oncology Pharmacy, less than 1% of doses were rejected in 2018, showcasing the success of the robotic compounding system.

These positive outcomes extend beyond staff well-being; the Allegheny General Hospital Pharmacy also experienced a notable reduction in average chemotherapy preparation time. Looking ahead, manufacturers of IV compounding robots are collaborating with pharmacies to enhance these automated systems further. This marks a significant stride toward more efficient and safer cancer care practices. The journey with robotic compounding in oncology pharmacies serves as a beacon of progress, demonstrating how technology can revolutionize cancer treatment and positively impact the lives of both patients and healthcare professionals.

This text is part of the European Cancer Organisation (ECO) repository of best practices and innovations to address the cancer workforce crisis in Europe. You can find more examples of best practices here.