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Quick Hits: Packaging Leads to Waste for Expensive Chemo Drugs

Waste from packaging led to $102 million in waste over a period of three years.

One-size-fits-all packaging can create economies of scale for production, but can create costly waste. A recent CBC article discussed the waste created from this type of packaging. Drugs are administered in specific doses that are determined by a patient’s size, so why are they packaged with uniform doses? One reason is that reusing the same vial can cause contamination and risk of infection. Some hospitals try to reduce waste by sharing vials, but that can only be done with patients who need a drug twice on the same day due to short shelf lives once opened.

One critic believes the group responsible for prescription drug prices should pressure drugmakers to produce smaller vials and provide refunds for the portions that aren’t used. The article discusses specific cases in which cancer patients had to pay for whole vials when they were only using a fraction of the contents. When dealing with high-cost drugs, the waste and financial ramifications are significant.  When questioned about vial size, Sanofi, the company that makes the patient’s medication, said the drug is packaged according to the “typical dose for the majority of the patient population” and to compensate for spillage during while the drug is administered.

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