Eliminating Harmful Substances Before They Reach Patients with Chemical Inventory Management
When we receive medications from pharmacies or physicians, we expect that these substances will work toward restoring our health. Very few of us expect to be injured or killed by the medical interventions meant to save us. In October 2012, however, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported of an outbreak of fungal meningitis, which was eventually traced back to contaminated medications prepared by the New England Compounding Center (NECC), a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts. Authorities would eventually determine that methylprednisolone, a steroid treatment delivered via epidural injection, contained different types of mold. But for too many people, the discovery was too late: by 2014, 64 patients who had initially been given injections of methylprednisolone died and over 700 were injured. Eventually, an investigation of the NECC found a number of problems, including unsanitary conditions and expired ingredients. Recently, the now-defunct pharmacy has been asked to pay $200 million to victims and creditors.
How does such oversight occur? Appropriate chemical inventory management was likely needed
Large pharmacies, especially compounding pharmacies, often produce “stores of unwanted chemicals” used in the preparation of prescriptions. These chemicals are known as “bulk compounding chemicals,” and include substances such as tar, phenol and sulfur. Between the chemicals used to prepare prescriptions, pharmacies must also keep track of the compounds and drug products that are ingredients of the final medications. Given the many materials and types of chemicals used and produced, it is especially important for managers to use chemical inventory management systems to organize and keep track of the chemicals that enter and leave a facility.
As mentioned above, the NECC used expired ingredients in their medications, which likely exposed a number of patients to adverse effects. Additionally, chemicals were not properly labeled. Using a chemical inventory management system prevents such oversight and in all likelihood, NECC lacked such a system. For compounding pharmacies and other such companies which would greatly benefit from tracking chemical supplies, let’s examine three ways a chemical inventory management system can help improve life for both employees and customers:
- Accurate data: The FDA has promised to clamp down on compounding pharmacies as a result of 2012’s incident; however, a random inspection should not be a reason to stress when facilities have a best practices chemical inventory management system in place. Many systems have gone completely digital by using barcode labeling and even providing remote inventory control. In this way, researchers and pharmacists can easily update inventory records, thus providing accurate and real-time data on the chemicals in stock.
- Expiration no more: Expired medications can be dangerous for patients; however, monitoring the expiration dates for both the chemicals used to produce prescription drugs as well as the chemical components of these drugs can be overwhelming. With a chemical inventory management system, managers can easily monitor expiration dates remotely, thus uncovering new opportunities for saving money by ordering less of a minimally used chemical, for example.
- Promote a safety culture: The most damning evidence against the NECC was its inability to create a culture of safety, one in which clear standards and practices are present and individuals are aware of the locations and proper disposal of items. The absence of such a culture perhaps helped contribute to the contamination of medications and it is no wonder that 14 former NECC executives and technicians were indicted on federal charges related to the outbreak. By implementing a chemical management system, leaders help ensure that employees understand the importance of safety and may act accordingly to protect the interests of all.
What occurred at the NECC proved to be a fatal flaw for the company. Though the presence of a chemical management system may not have prevented the outbreak, if such a system were in place and used in conjunction with a digital notebook capable of recording the results of sterility tests, for example, the likelihood that such a mistake could occur would have been much less. To determine how BIOVIA CISPro can help your organization better organize, track and dispose of chemicals, please visit our website today.