The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) regularly undertakes themed reviews of patient safety incident reports to better understand risks in a specified area of practice and identify actions and strategies to minimise preventable harms to patients. Patient safety incident reports involving anti-cancer medicines reported between 1 November 2003 and 30 June 2008 were selected for review.
The term ‘anti-cancer medicines’ has been used throughout to encompass conventional cytotoxic and cytostatic medicines, as well as newer biological treatments such as monoclonal antibodies, so-called ‘small molecules’, and other targeted therapies.
Patient safety incident reports which described the non-cancer use of anti-cancer medicines, predominantly involving the use of methotrexate to modify the immune response in rheumatology and dermatology, were excluded from the review. The remaining reports were analysed by clinical outcome, stage of the medicines use process, type of incident, and anti-cancer medicine.