Safe handling of cytostatic drugs: recommendations from independent science

Mirjam Crul, Oscar Breukels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVES: Due to their mechanism of action, most classical cytostatic drugs have carcinogenic, mutagenic and/or reprotoxic properties. Therefore, occupational exposure of healthcare staff to these drugs should be prevented. Our objective was to lay out European legislation on this topic and reflect on the process of revising the European CM-directive. We summarise independent European and Dutch studies, and give a concise set of basic recommendations for safe working with cytotoxic drugs in healthcare facilities.

METHODS: We were directly involved in the process of revising the CM-directive: first, through an EU commissioned workshop in the Netherlands, and after that by contributing to the pan-European stakeholder symposium. For this aim, we had to gather the relevant study data from the Netherlands and from Europe. We analysed all relevant industry-independent studies and collated a set of basic recommendations.

RESULTS: Independent studies show that the development of measures in recent years can lead to a safe work environment. Standardising the cleaning process leads to a significant improvement in environmental contamination in the majority of hospitals. In the Netherlands, exposure of workers was shown to be well beneath the limit value of 0.74 µg cyclophosphamide per week, therefore showing that the measures taken in recent years are adequate.

CONCLUSIONS: The safety of healthcare workers is of the utmost importance. Current practice in the Netherlands show that measures taken in recent years are adequate. European legislation should be based on independent scientific research and practice. The first goal should be to bring countries with less safe working levels to a higher level instead of introducing measures that only increase healthcare budgets but not healthcare safety.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA884
JournalEuropean Journal of Hospital Pharmacy
Early online date16 Sept 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Sept 2022


  • antineoplastic agents
  • international health regulations
  • occupational medicine
  • practice guideline
  • safety

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