September 21, 2017

September 21, 2017

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What is infusion therapy?

September 21, 2017

 

Infusion therapy involves the administration of medication through a needle or catheter.  It is prescribed when a patient’s condition is so severe that it cannot be treated effectively by oral medications.  Typically, “infusion therapy” means that a drug is administered intravenously, but the term also may refer to situations where drugs are provided through other non-oral routes, such as intramuscular injections and epidural routes (into the membranes surrounding the spinal cord).

“Traditional” prescription drug therapies commonly administered via infusion include antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, chemotherapy, hydration, pain management and parenteral nutrition.

Infusion therapy is also provided to patients for treating a wide assortment of often chronic and sometimes rare diseases for which “specialty” infusion medications are effective.  While some have been available for many years, others are newer drugs and biologics.  Examples include blood factors, corticosteroids, erythropoietin, infliximab, inotropic heart medications, growth hormones, immunoglobulin, natalizumab and many others.

What diseases are treated with infusion therapy?

Diseases commonly requiring infusion therapy include infections that are unresponsive to oral antibiotics, cancer and cancer-related pain, dehydration, gastrointestinal diseases or disorders which prevent normal functioning of the gastrointestinal system, and more.  Other conditions treated with specialty infusion therapies may include cancers, congestive heart failure, Crohn's Disease, hemophilia, immune deficiencies, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and more.

By far, the major home infusion therapies are IV antibiotics, prescribed primarily for such diagnoses as cellulitis, sepsis, and osteomyelitis; other diagnoses include urinary tract infections, pneumonia, sinusitis and more.

What is specialty infusion therapy?

“Specialty infusion therapy” is a term in use when “specialty” infusion medications are administered.  However, it also is used to reflect the highly specialized services and level of care that an infusion pharmacy provides to its infusion therapy patients.  While there are some infusion pharmacy organizations that focus on providing a limited set of specialty infusion therapies, others provide the wide spectrum of traditional and specialty infusion therapies.  The distinction, if any, between the meaning of “specialty infusion therapy” and “infusion therapy” is related to the context of their use.

Why are infusions performed at home?

Until the 1980s, patients receiving infusion therapy had to remain in the inpatient setting for the duration of their therapy.  Heightened emphasis on cost-containment in health care, as well as developments in the clinical administration of the therapy, led to strategies to administer infusion therapy in alternate settings.  For individuals requiring long-term therapy, inpatient care is not only tremendously expensive but also prevents the individual from resuming normal lifestyle and work activities.

The technological advances that enabled safe and effective administration of infusion therapies in the home, the desire of patients to resume normal lifestyles and work activities while recovering from illness, and the cost-effectiveness of home care are important. Consequently, home infusion therapy has evolved into a comprehensive medical therapy that is a much less costly alternative to inpatient treatment in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.

Home infusion has been proven to be a safe and effective alternative to inpatient care for many disease states and therapies.  For many patients, receiving treatment at home or in an outpatient infusion suite setting is preferable to inpatient care.  A thorough patient assessment