November 17, 2008 / 8:03 PM / 9 years ago

Children with cancer at risk of drug interactions

GRAMADO, Brazil (Reuters Health) - Potentially harmful drug interactions among children being treated for cancer might be far more prevalent than previously thought, new research suggests.

Pharmacist María Elisa Ferreira Dos Santos and colleagues at the Federal University of Río Grande do Sul Hospital in Porto Alegre, Brazil, analyzed 243 randomly selected prescriptions for 115 children treated over a period of 3 months. They were able to track drug interactions using specific software programs.

Each prescription had, on average, five potentially dangerous or therapeutically inadequate drug combinations, the researchers reported here at the XI Brazilian Congress of Pediatric Oncology. Among those patients receiving more than 16 drugs, who accounted for almost a half of the sample studied, the average number of interactions per prescription rose to 7.

More than half of the interactions (53 percent) were considered of moderate severity and 38 percent of these might have eventually caused serious side effects or even life-threatening complications.

Commenting on the findings, Dr. Cláudio Galvão de Castro Jr., pediatric oncologist of the Federal University of Río Grande do Sul and president of the meeting said pharmacists play an "essential" role in monitoring prescriptions and drug-drug interactions in complex diseases.

"They can help improve patient outcomes and reduce the cost of treatments by preventing avoidable complications," he told Reuters Health.

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