Patient dies after receiving unlicensed drug

Patients receiving chemotherapy

A cancer patient died and three others were hospitalised in the UK after they were administered an unlicensed version of chemotherapy cabazitaxel.

According to The Guardian, which reported on the incident, the problem was caused by an issue at private healthcare company Sciensus’ medicines manufacturing unit.

In a statement, Sciensus said that it was an “isolated incident” and that the company was “deeply saddened” that one of the patients had died. An investigation by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is currently underway.

Sciensus is the UK’s biggest private provider of homecare medicine services. It delivers and administers medicines and medical items to about 200,000 patients with complex conditions including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia and HIV.

Ongoing investigation

The Guardian has been investigating Sciensus for some time, and claims that “NHS patients have repeatedly been put at risk of harm” by the company’s “botched provision of medicines”.

Following this investigation and a complaint from doctors and other healthcare professionals to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the regulator says it has launched a review into the concerns. Issues raised include late and missed deliveries of medicines, leading to potentially serious consequences for patients’ health.

According to the newspaper, the parliamentary and health service ombudsman (PHSO) has received 18 official requests to examine grievances against Sciensus since August last year, but has not begun any investigations.

It also reports that Darryn Gibson, the Chief Executive of Sciensus, received a letter from Kate Burt, the Chief Executive of the Haemophilia Society, in November 2020, drawing attention to the dangers of missed deliveries of drugs.

Ratings and reviews on the NHS website reveal terrible feedback from patients who use the service and confirm the company’s poor record.

In June, the House of Lords public services committee launched an inquiry into “the extent of the problems in homecare medicine services”, and how such private healthcare companies are governed and managed.

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