Rx for Complex Therapies

Pharmacy Down the Hall Delivers
for Cancer Patients

Oncology Pharmacist Jan Lindsey outside the chemical mixing room.

You can’t just walk into this pharmacy and pay for an over-the-counter sinus medicine or bottle of antacid tablets. In fact, the public can’t even walk into this specially designed pharmacy at all. The only clientele served here are the patients of NorthBay Cancer Center.

Cancer patients have specific yet unique pharmaceutical needs, and if they are undergoing chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, they need to have their infusion drugs mixed shortly after they arrive for their appointment. So, when architects were designing the new cancer center, they placed the pharmacy just down the hall from the Medical Oncology infusion room.

“Having it just steps away from the infusion center, rather than at the hospital across the parking lot, will help us serve our patients in a more timely fashion,” said Hy Ton, pharmacy manager.

These drugs also need to be mixed in a carefully controlled environment, Hy explained, and so the pharmacy includes a special room with a ventilation system more advanced than current regulations require. “In fact, we are well ahead of the curve in terms of compliance.”

In this negative pressure room, air pressure is lower than outside air pressure. “That allows us to completely contain fumes within the room. The ventilation system recirculates the air nearly 50 times every hour and it is filtered through a highly advanced HEPA filter before it is vented outside,” Hy explained. “To maintain strict sterile cleaning standards, even the walls and ceiling have been painted in such a way so that not a single particle or molecule from the medicines can stick to the surface.”

The pharmacy also mixes non-chemotherapy IV drugs to treat dehydration, nausea/vomiting and infections.

What makes this oncology pharmacy even more special are the experts who staff it. Along with a team of highly trained technicians, Jan Lindsey, a board-certified oncology pharmacist ensures the optimal use of chemotherapy, as well as providing personal consultations with patients.

Having the pharmacy and its staff so close to patient treatment rooms offers another bonus, Hy added. “Our pharmacists are specialized, and have the training and clinical knowledge to manage much more complex therapies. We can meet directly with the patient and answer any questions or concerns they might have about the medicines, or any possible side effects.”

While the pharmacy currently only serves Cancer Center patients, plans call for staff to provide medicines for other specialty services such as rheumatology in the near future, Hy noted.

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