Fingerprinting drugs

A new system has been developed to eliminate mistakes made while mixing compounds in a hospital pharmacy.

A system designed to eliminate mistakes made while mixing compounds in a hospital pharmacy was 100 percent accurate in identifying the proper formulations of seven intravenous drugs.

Five potentially serious medication errors were averted over an 18-month period in a test of the system at University of Michigan CS Mott Children’s Hospital, said Jim Stevenson, associate dean of Clinical Sciences at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy.

Stevenson said the hospital is the first in the world to use the system to test intravenous drugs compounded in the pharmacy.

The table-top device manufactured by ValiMed, a division of Tuscon, Arizona-based CDEX, uses a technique called enhanced photoemission spectroscopy to determine if the compounds are correct.

In use, light is shot into the drug compound, which excites molecules, and the energy emitted by the excited molecules is measured by a spectrometer. Each drug compound tested has its own so-called light fingerprint, which is compared to the fingerprint of the control compound. If they match, the drug is considered correct. The process takes about a minute, so the technology was able to be integrated into the workflow of the pharmacy when used for select high risk products.
‘There are many potential safeguards that are being pursued to improve medication safety,’ Stevenson said. ‘However, the primary safeguard for intravenous drugs compounded in hospital pharmacies today remains a visual check by the pharmacist. Using a technology like this helps prevent mistakes that can occur due to human error,’ he added.

The device is now used at CS Mott and University Hospital, both in the University of Michigan Health System. The next step, Stevenson said, is for the company to develop more drug signatures so that more drugs can be tested.
The idea for the system started in 2004 when Stevenson learned that a colleague at the University of Utah was using a similar system to test narcotics. Stevenson contacted the company about developing it further to check intravenous drug compounds prepared in the pharmacy.