The Pharmacists’ Role in Cancer Care: A Response to the Auditor General’s Report

On December 6, 2017, the Auditor General of Ontario released its 2017 Annual Report. The report makes 18 recommendations to improve the care of cancer patients in the province.  One specific recommendation has direct implications for pharmacists to ensure that patients receiving take home cancer drugs receive standardized, high quality and safe care in all patient care settings.  This recommendation recognizes that pharmacists are important partners in delivering care to patients with cancer.

Recommendation 4: To better ensure cancer drugs are used by patients safely at home, we recommend that Cancer Care Ontario work with the Ontario College of Pharmacists, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and hospitals to:

  • establish education programs for cancer patients on safe usage and handling of take-home cancer drugs and monitoring programs to assist cancer patients on adhering to proper use of oral cancer drug therapy at home; and
  • evaluate whether to require that pharmacists who dispense cancer drugs receive specialized cancer-drug-therapy training and are familiar with cancer therapy regimens, including oral cancer drug regimens

The Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy (LDFP) at the University of Toronto is committed to life-long learning through the Office of Continuous Professional Development which delivers leading-edge educational programs that improve and expand the competency of pharmacy professionals, researchers, scientists and allied professionals involved in pharmacy policy and practice.  In 2016, we collaborated with Cancer Care Ontario to create the Oncology for Pharmacists:  A Person-Centred Approach to Cancer Care.  The program was created by faculty members and engages leading expert pharmacists working in oncology practices across the country. 

We know that patients living with cancer have complex healthcare needs and it is important for pharmacists to enhance their ability to provide care to these patients and their families. The goal of this program is to enhance critical knowledge required to deliver care to cancer patients in a holistic, person-centred way.  To date, over 350 pharmacists have enrolled in the program. 

As the clinical role of pharmacists continues to expand, we look forward to continuing our work with Cancer Care Ontario, the Ontario College of Pharmacists and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to continue to deliver specialized cancer-drug therapy and management training for all pharmacists involved with the care of cancer patients in Ontario.


Kathy Vu is a Pharmacist and Academic Director of the Continuous Professional Development Oncology Program and Director of the PharmD for Pharmacists at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy