Pharmacists to Take the Reins of Leading Clinical Trials for Children’s Oncology Group

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As the resident medication experts, pharmacists are qualified to answer any medication-related questions and conduct data analyses.

To many people, a pharmacist is the busy individual behind the counter at a community pharmacy. The Children’s Oncology Group (COG) has been challenging this idea by putting pharmacists at the forefront of research trials.

Image credit: phonlamaiphoto | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: phonlamaiphoto | stock.adobe.com

The COG assembled a Pharmacy Discipline Committee of more than 200 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians across the globe to manage the design and execution of clinical trials. With their expertise in essential trial aspects such as drug management, storage, and direct patient care, pharmacists are well-equipped to assume this pivotal and invaluable role.

Recently, a review article published in the Pediatric Blood and Cancer journal outlined the various roles that pharmacists hold and their responsibilities.

Some core activities include study drug management in which pharmacists are responsible for identifying any medication related issues that could potentially affect the data. Additionally, the Pharmacy Discipline Committee works to ensure a sufficient supply of medication throughout the course of the trial and determine ways to modify the therapy in the event of a shortage.

They are also involved in managing the operations of the trials and ensuring that there are no safety concerns to be addressed or issues to be mitigated. As the resident medication experts, pharmacists are qualified to answer any medication-related questions and conduct data analyses.

Discipline committee members are also involved in protocol harmonization, which is an effort to standardize therapy through implementation of tools, such as dosing tables.

The goal of protocol harmonization is to reduce medication errors. Additionally, pharmacists are heavily involved in providing direct patient care primarily through patient and caregiver education.

Apart from the management of clinical trials, 3 subcommittees address auxiliary needs of the organization.

  • The membership engagement and communication subcommittee plays the key role of educating pharmacists and encouraging networking within the community.
  • The continuing education subcommittee has a primary role in creating continuing education (CE) modules for pharmacists across the board.
  • The research committee developed a program that supports pharmacists as they navigate starting and managing a research program.

Apart from these roles, the committee continues to expand its duties to create an even stronger presence. Some new areas of work include pharmacogenomic research aimed at pediatric oncology research.

Pharmacogenetics provides insights that can help determine the directionality of the therapy. The committee aims to incorporate this step into protocols.

These efforts highlight that pharmacists can play key roles in various environments due to their well-rounded knowledge of medications.

About the Author

Sumoda Achar is a 2024 PharmD candidate at the University of Connecticut.

Reference

Ostrenga, AR, Thackray, J, McLearan, H-MH, et al. Children's Oncology Group's 2023 blueprint for research: Pharmacy. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2023;70(Suppl. 6):e30581. https://doi.org/10.1002/pbc.30581

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