Towlettes clean up difficult-to-remove anticancer drugs from surfaces

A set of towlettes developed by two researchers at Carolina can safely remove difficult-to-clean anticancer drugs commonly found on surfaces in hospitals, pharmacies, clinics and labs. The product, called Hazardous Drug Clean – or HDClean – addresses the growing concern regarding the safety of health care workers who frequently handle these potentially dangerous drugs.

“Health care workers who prepare, administer and dispose of chemotherapy drugs are at increased risk of developing health complications, such as skin rashes, infertility, and other problems,” says Stephen Eckel, a leading expert on the issue and an adjunct assistant professor at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. “HDClean is one way to reduce exposure and maintain a safe working environment.”

Cleaning products currently used in pharmacies, labs and hospitals worldwide typically use solutions that contain alcohol or water, or a combination of the two, explains William Zamboni, who, along with Eckel, created HDClean. While these products are commonly used to disinfect, they are not recommended as agents to remove the presence of hazardous drugs.

“Hazardous drug contamination is very difficult to clean up because they will not all dissolve in the same solution,” says Zamboni, an associate professor at the pharmacy school and a member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. “HDClean works because each packet has two towlettes, each containing a special mix. When used in sequence, the towlettes can remove all detectable concentrations of the anticancer drugs tested from surfaces.”

In 2008, Eckel and Zamboni developed a kit to detect surface contamination of six anticancer drugs (cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide, 5-fluorouracil, docetaxel, paclitaxel and cisplatin). Since then, Eckel and Zamboni have used this kit in more than 1,000 tests in more than 300 hospitals in the United States and found that 80 to 90 percent had detectable levels of these drugs. Many of these institutions, they add, had contamination levels that were 10 to 100 times higher than the concentration needed to kill cancer cells in vitro. The testing motivated them to start their own company, ChemoGLO LLC., which began offering HDClean earlier this month.

Eckel and Zamboni are quick to point out that their goal is to complement procedures and guidelines that reduce or prevent exposure to hazardous drugs in the workplace, not replace them. “At the end of the day or shift, HDClean provides one more solution to minimize the contact an individual has with hazardous drugs,” says Eckel, who is also an assistant director of pharmacy at UNC Hospitals. “It adds another layer of protection that wasn’t there before.”