Hazardous drug residue on exterior vial surfaces: evaluation of a commercial manufacturing process

Hosp Pharm. 2014 Apr;49(4):355-62. doi: 10.1310/hpj4904-355.


Purpose: Hazardous drug residue on the exterior surface of drug vials poses a potential risk for exposure of health care workers involved in handling these products. The purpose of this article is to heighten the awareness of this serious issue and to evaluate a commercial manufacturing process for removing and containing hazardous drug (HD) residue on exterior vial surfaces. Additionally, findings from this study are interpreted, incorporated into the current body of evidence, and discussed by experts in this field.

Methods: This study includes separate evaluations for the presence or absence of surface drug contamination on the vials of 3 HD products: 5-fluorouracil, cisplatin, and methotrexate. The drug products were packaged in vials using a patented prewashing/decontamination method, application of a polyvinylchloride (PVC) base, and use of clear glass vials. An additional step of encasing the vial in a shrink-wrapped sheath was used for 5-fluorouracil and cisplatin.

Results: Of all 5-fluorouracil (110 vials), methotrexate (60 vials), and cisplatin (60 vials) tested, only 2 had detectable amounts of surface residue. One 5-fluorouracil vial was found to have approximately 4 mg of 5-fluorouracil on the surface of the vial. The second contaminated vial was cisplatin, which was discovered to have 131 ng of platinum, equal to 200 ng of cisplatin or 0.2 μL of cisplatin solution, on the vial sheath.

Conclusion: Using validated extraction and analytic methods, all but 2 of the 230 tested vials were found to be free of surface drug contamination. Pharmacy leaders need to take an active role in promoting the need for clean HD vials. Manufacturers should be required to provide their clients with data derived from externally validated analytic studies, reporting the level of HD contamination on the exterior of their vial products.

Keywords: clean vials; hazardous drugs; safe handling; vial contamination.