Which Chemotherapy and Biotherapy Drugs Are Hazardous? Data Gathering Continues

Because many biotherapy agents are still relatively new in the treatment of cancer, there is still quite a bit of variability in how these agents are handled. However, it is important to note that some biologic agents are considered hazardous while others are not.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and other organizations are still gathering health risk data related to these drugs. Therefore, their recommendation is that for all drugs, at the very least, standard precautions should be observed, including specific recommendations from the drug manufacturer’s Material Safety Data Sheets and drug inserts. NIOSH publishes a list of drugs that it considers to be hazardous to humans. In addition, the International Agency for Research on Cancer publishes a list that is updated regularly as new data are released.

ONS regards the drugs for antineoplastic indications as hazardous because of the potential risks to patients and staff and recommends using the same personal protective equipment (PPE) as is recommended for chemotherapy administration. Keep in mind that longitudinal data to support what is actually hazardous to humans are not complete for many drugs; therefore, consider using PPE when handling any chemotherapy or biotherapy agents.