NIOSH Adds to Hazardous-Drugs List

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Heath added 34 hazardous drugs to the list to bring awareness and enable health care worker to protect themselves from exposure at work.


Afatinib, axitinib, and belinostat head the list of 34 additions to the updated National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) List of Antineoplastic and Other Hazardous Drugs in Healthcare Settings. The list is “an important resource as well as a tool to raise awareness among workers about the hazards of some drugs,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, MD, “enabling workers to take the necessary steps to protect themselves from exposure while doing their job.”

The list includes drugs used for cancer chemotherapy, antiviral drugs, hormones, and bioengineered drugs. The 3 main categories are antineoplastic drugs (including those with manufacturer’s safe-handling guidance [MSHG]), nonantineoplastic drugs that meet ≥ 1 of the NIOSH criteria for hazardous drugs (including those with MSHG), and nonantineoplastic drugs that primarily have adverse reproductive effects.

NIOSH estimates that 8 million U.S. health care workers are potentially exposed to hazardous drugs in the workplace. Some drugs defined as hazardous may not pose a significant risk of direct occupational exposure until the formulations are altered (as when coated tablets are crushed). Other hazards include, for example, skin contact with or inhalation of dust as uncoated tablets are counted. Five of the newly added drugs have safe-handling recommendations.

NIOSH says “no single approach can cover the diverse potential occupational exposures to the drugs” and notes that safe-handling precautions can vary with the activity and formulation of the drug. Still, the list also provides general guidance for “possible scenarios” that might be encountered in health care settings where hazardous drugs are handled. It addresses situations such as receiving, unpacking, and placing drugs in storage; administering an intact tablet or capsule from a unit-dose package; cutting, crushing, or manipulating tablets or capsules; and compounding oral liquid drugs or topical drugs.

The new report also provides health care organizations with guidance on generating their own list of hazardous drugs. Hazardous drug evaluation is “a continual process,” NIOSH says, advising that every facility must assess each new drug that enters its workplace and when appropriate reassess its list of hazardous drugs as new toxicologic data become available.

The list of hazardous drugs is updated periodically at

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