Like most pharmacists, oncology pharmacists have traditionally monitored and administered medications. However, with the accumulation of new knowledge, advances in technology and technician assistance, oncology pharmacists have taken on a more clinically oriented role.
Oncology pharmacists now review chemotherapy orders, monitor testing and send recommendations to physicians. The pharmacists are taking on these roles because of their advanced, specialized knowledge of antineoplastics and support in caring for comorbidities.
They work with physicians to determine what types of chemotherapy to use and what supportive care to offer patients based on a set of factors, such as age, organ function, cancer stage and others.
Because of the explosive growth of cancer drugs on the market – more than 800 biologics, drugs and vaccines are now in development – oncology pharmacists must be continually learning to stay abreast of new developments.
Managing the formulary for cancer drugs has become a considerable and essential task. Pharmacists are key players on oncology pharmacy and therapeutic committees at healthcare organizations, helping to develop policies and procedures for the use of the drugs and frequently reevaluating them.
The oncology pharmacist also provides information about new drugs proposed for addition to the formulary and assesses the efficacy of the drugs currently in use.
Due to the number of cancer drugs that have recently been approved, cancer therapy has become much more complex and specific to the disease. Because of this complexity, the oncology pharmacist is often the main source of information to healthcare teams and providers about these drug therapies.
One key area where oncology pharmacists play a vital role is providing information about drug interactions to providers. A case in point is the interaction of antibiotics with cancer drugs. Physicians usually ask the pharmacists about this combination of drugs.
Also, because of the complexity of the new drugs, oncology pharmacists are becoming more involved in medication therapy management, educating patients and helping them as they receive more combination therapies and advanced treatment.
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