Survey: Oncology Pharmacists Report Impaired Access to PPE, Certain Medications


Oncology pharmacy practitioners highlight challenges amid the pandemic, such as limited access to personal protective equipment and essential medications.


Oncology pharmacists continue to face difficulties accessing personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to new survey findings published in the Journal of Oncology Pharmacy Practice.

Despite the ongoing pandemic and its strain on the health care system, patients with cancer still need access to crucial care. However, the insurgence of COVID-19 cases has resulted in depleted supplies of PPE used to safeguard health care workers. 

For the study, investigators from the University of California and the International Society of Oncology Pharmacy Practitioners, Irvine, aimed to highlight the most prevalent challenges reported by oncology pharmacy practitioners during the global pandemic. Particularly, the survey focused on challenges related to safe handling of hazardous drugs and maintaining high quality medication safety standards. 

The investigators surveyed 42 pharmacy practice groups in 28 countries and regions between April 10 and April 22, 2020 to provide a recent snapshot on the current state of oncology care during COVID-19. 

Related: Navigating Oncology Pharmacy Practice During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Overall, half of the survey respondents reported either a restricted supply or difficulty accessing PPE. Additionally, practitioners in 43% of the surveyed countries indicated impaired access to drugs, including anti-infective agents, anticancer medications, and supportive care medications.

In a recent video interview with Drug Topics®, Robert Brunault, PharmD, clinical pharmacy specialist in hematology and oncology at Rhode Island Hospital and the Lifespan Cancer Institute, cited lack of or difficulty acquiring PPE as one of the top concerns for everyone in the health care system. 

“I think especially in these times, we need to be prepared-as hospitals, and as a country and the health system as a whole-ensuring that all of our hospitals can get the necessary [PPE],” Brunault told Drug Topics®. Watch the full interview here.


“We have to make sure cancer health care workers-in this case, pharmacists and technicians involved in cancer care-continue to be well safeguarded with PPEs and have what they need to do their jobs well,” lead study investigator Alexandre Chan, department chair and professor clinical pharmacy practice, PharmD, MPH, said in a press release. “Oncology pharmacists are important frontline healthcare workers who are involved in the care of patients that are vulnerable.”


1. Chan A, Alexander M, Jupp J, et al. Global oncology pharmacy response to COVID-19 pandemic: Medication access and safety. Journal of Oncology Pharmacy Practice. 2020.


2. Global oncology pharmacists face restricted access to essential PPE items, UCI study finds. News Release. UCI; June 8, 2020. Accessed June 8, 2020.

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