Home Storage and Administration of Chemotherapy

Usually oncologists want you to come to their clinic to get your chemotherapy.  Ask if you can do it at home and you might get a “yes”.  You are more likely to get a yes if you have a home health care helper or part-time nurse.  Chemotherapy administration is complicated and anything involving an IV should not be done by the patient.

Storage

It’s always worth thinking about where and how medicines are stored in your house if only to keep track of them and to reduce the chances of others taking them or pets getting into them..  Most people keep them in the bathroom – the well-known “medicine cabinet” – or perhaps the kitchen.  Medicines taken for other maladies are often simple pills and can be kept in the bottle from the pharmacy.  Some people transfer pills from the bottle to a dedicated pill box.  Some boxes or dispensing devices can help patients remember all the pills they have to take in one day and reminds them once the pills have been taken.  This is great for chemotherapy drugs and related oncology treatment medications that are in the form of pills.

However, most chemotherapy drugs are not in pill form.  Most require injections or infusions and are in fluids.  (These fluids may be further classified as liquids or suspensions or slurries).  Some medicines must be kept at a low temperature and patients are told to keep them in the refrigerator.

How much of an inventory do you need?

Consult with your oncology team.  It is doubtful you need more than a month’s supply, and pharmacies almost never give patients more than three months’ worth of any medicine.  One month is a more realistic upper limit for oncology drugs because of their cost, hazards, and relative fragility.

Disposal

If there is leftover medicine, you should not simply throw it in the trash, and certainly never flush it down the drain.  Recycling of drugs is not feasible and probably not legal,  However, you may be able to deliver unused medication to the pharmacy you got it from.  Some drug stores have take-back programs.  You don’t get paid for the medicine, but you know it will be responsibly disposed of.  In some areas the local government or other agencies run depots where you can take old medicine.  This website http://disposemymeds.org/ lists many in the US.

If you must throw away medicine, be sure to make sure animals or human scavengers will not pick it out of your garbage can.  The website Easth911 recommends Pouring medication into a sealable plastic bag, adding water and kitty litter or sawdust, sealing the bad, and putting it in the trash.  Destroy labels that identify the medicine and your personal info.  Never flush medicine down the toilet.  (The only exception is that opioid pain relievers should be flushed, according to government guidelines, to prevent desperate addicts from getting them,)