Chemotherapy and Biotherapy Drugs for Autoimmune Disease

Nancy E. Thompson, MS, RN, AOCNS



While reviewing the medication list for a new patient with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you note she has an order for rituximab and metho-trexate. A quick search in a nursing drug handbook tells you rituximab is a biotherapy drug indicated for patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and methotrexate is classified as a chemotherapy drug. Why are an increasing number of drugs normally given to cancer
patients now being ordered to treat autoimmune diseases? You’re not chemotherapy “certified,” so you wonder whether you can give these drugs. Do they require special handling precautions Autoimmune diseases cause suffering and disability for many persons. New biotherapy drugs and older chemotherapy agents have the potential to ease symptoms and improve quality of life. This article provides the information you need to administer these medications and to teach patients about them.

Purpose/Goal: The purpose of this activity is to provide nurses with information related to the use of chemotherapy and biotherapy for patients with autoimmune disease so they can provide patient education and administer the drugs properly.


At the conclusion, participants should be able to:
1. State indication for the use of chemotherapy and biotherapy drugs in patients with autoimmune diseases.
2. Compare chemotherapy and biotherapy drugs used to treat autoimmune diseases.
3. Discuss the nursing management of patients with autoimmune diseases who are receiving chemotherapy or biotherapy drugs.
4. Recall how to handle hazardous drugs.


Nancy E. Thompson, MS, RN, AOCNS, is the Clinical Director of Quality and Performance at the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle, Washington. She has been an oncology nurse for more than 25 years with 15 years of experience in planning and providing oncology education. Nancy has taught chemotherapy and biotherapy to nurses for 15 years and is a certified trainer by the Oncology Nursing Society to teach chemotherapy and biotherapy for oncology nurses and also non-oncology indications for non-oncology nurses.

The planners and author of this CNE activity have disclosed no relevant financial relationships with commercial companies pertaining to this continuing nursing education activity.

Contact Hours: 1.7

Expiration Date: 12/15/2015

Pharmacology Hours: 1.7


Member Price: $15.00
Non-Member Price: $20.00

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