NIOSH, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is a federal agency tasked with researching and making recommendations for preventing work-related injury and illness. Part of their task is to identify antineoplastic and other hazardous drugs, and thus the NIOSH List of Antineoplastic and Other Hazardous Drugs in Healthcare Settings was published.
Antineoplastic drugs, defined by the CDC and NIOSH, are medications used to treat cancer. It is particularly hazardous during pregnancy, increasing your chances of a miscarriage or having a child with a birth defect, as well as increasing risk of infertility. Antineoplastic drugs target and kill rapidly dividing cancerous cells, which is great against cancer, but it can also target healthy dividing cells such as those in a developing baby.
Even individuals exposed to antineoplastic drugs are at risk. That can include pharmacists or technicians who prepare the drugs, nurses and doctors who are treating patients who are taking antineoplastic drugs, and any hospital or veterinarian staff that can come in contact or handle the drugs.
The NIOSH List also includes other drugs that are considered hazardous “because they are potent (small quantities produce a physiological effect) or cause irreversible effects.” The document goes on to recommend precautions around handling these hazardous drugs.
Drugs considered hazardous exhibit one or more of the following six characteristics:
- Teratogenicity or other developmental toxicity
- Reproductive toxicity
- Organ toxicity at low doses
- Structure and toxicity profiles of new drugs that mimic existing drugs determined hazardous by the above criteria
The current NIOSH approach for handling hazardous drugs categorizes them into three groups:
For more information about the proper handling of the drugs, inform yourself by reading the NIOSH List. You can also find the tables at the end of the document listing out the drugs within each group that are considered hazardous. Below, find a list of AvKARE’s offerings and their corresponding group classification.
Keep in mind that just because these drugs are listed as hazardous does not mean they can’t provide benefits. Hazardous drugs include those used for cancer therapy, antiviral purposes, hormone agents, and bioengineered drugs. Exposure to these drugs outside of prescribed uses is what is considered hazardous, which is why NIOSH publishes this list for safe handling and protection.