Ali McBride has been a busy man since he earned his PharmD degree at the UA College of Pharmacy in 2007. He spent the year following his graduation as a pharmacy resident at the VA Medical Center in Tucson. He then spent a year as an oncology resident at Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida. He has worked at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis as a clinical pharmacy specialist, and was a specialty practice pharmacist at Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University.
Eight months ago, Tucson welcomed McBride back as the clinical coordinator of the UA Cancer Center. This new position entails working in collaboration with the director of pharmacy, Hematology/Oncology Services and other members of the healthcare team to enhance, evaluate, promote and improve the services delivered by the Hematology/Oncology pharmacy team. McBride’s position also includes the training of staff members, pharmacy residents and students.
“It feels like home,” McBride says about being back in Tucson.
On his return, McBride quickly stepped into the position of head coach of the Foothill Spartans lacrosse team, which he helped start in 2006 when he was a pharmacy student. Lacrosse has been a longtime passion for the pharmacist, and it “felt great” to connect with a group he already knew.
Professionally, McBride is equally passionate about addressing the problem of oncology drug shortages and is the lead author of an article published by the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy in April. The article, entitled “National Survey on the Effect of Oncology Drug Shortages on Cancer Care,” delves into the consequences of cancer drug shortages on cancer patients.
Oncology drug shortages weigh heavily on McBride’s mind because there are often not alternative drugs available. This can result in disruptions in the timing of chemotherapy treatments and even missed doses. When less-familiar alternative drugs can be used, medication errors are more likely.
McBride brought his concerns to Capitol Hill in 2011, when he spoke along with others about the shortage of cancer drugs to more than 200 members of Congress and their staff members. He also testified at a Federal Drug Administration drug shortage workshop in 2012. When asked if there is hope of the situation improving in the near future, McBride stated that the insufficiencies have let up over the last year, but there are still persistent shortages.
Oncology pharmacists are involved with the care of individuals with cancer at all phases of their treatment, and thus are uniquely positioned to provide keen insight on oncology drug shortages. Ninety-eight percent of respondents to a recent national survey done by the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) reported experiencing an oncology drug shortage in 2011. Ninety-three percent reported a delay in chemotherapy administration or change to a different treatment. Sixteen percent reported an adverse patient outcome, including disease progression due to delays in therapy and increased adverse events when forced to switch therapies.
McBride sums up his thoughts on the situation by saying, “Chemotherapy drug shortages have taken a foothold in the daily practice setting of chemotherapy. Issues with chemotherapy drug shortages can include medication safety errors, lack of alternative regimens, increased cost to healthcare systems and potential delay or closing of clinical trials. Unfortunately, the harm that is often unseen is the potential patient issues that may not be recognized with these chemotherapy drug shortages, which is the most tragic to all those involved with the fight against cancer.”
McBride does what he can to help make others aware of, and alleviate oncology drug shortages by being involved in organizations that can make a difference. He currently serves on the board of trustees for the Association of Community Cancer Centers and on the council of therapeutics of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. He has also served as chair of legislative affairs for HOPA.
McBride seems to be at home with a schedule that would scare the average person, and he isn’t showing signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Story and photos by Rebecca Wingate