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Cancer Centers Say Drug Shortages Are Impacting Patient Care
  • Posted June 8, 2023

Cancer Centers Say Drug Shortages Are Impacting Patient Care

A new survey of cancer centers find that chemotherapy shortages are affecting most of them, prompting last-minute changes in treatment for numerous types of cancer.

About 93% of the centers surveyed said they were experiencing shortages of the drug carboplatin, while 70% were short on cisplatin. Together, these platinum chemotherapies can treat and even cure cancers, including lung, breast, prostate and many leukemias and lymphomas.

“This is an unacceptable situation. We are hearing from oncologists and pharmacists across the country who have to scramble to find appropriate alternatives for treating their patients with cancer right now,” Dr. Robert Carlson, chief executive officer at National Comprehensive Cancer Network, said in a news release on the widespread shortages.

“We were relieved by survey results that show patients are still able to get lifesaving care, but it comes at a burden to our overtaxed medical facilities. We need to work together to improve the current situation and prevent it from happening again in the future,” Carlson added.

The whole oncology community needs to work together on solutions, NCCN said, as it also called on the federal government, pharmaceutical industry, cancer treatment providers and insurance companies to do their part.

“The causes and solutions to the recurrent anti-cancer drug shortages that deprive oncology patients of optimal therapy are multiple and fixable. Effective solutions require a whole of oncology effort if they are to be successful,” the statement read.

In the Survey, NCCN polled 27 NCCN member institutions across the United States from May 23 to 31.

While the survey found that all of the centers were still able to treat patients who needed cisplatin without any delays, only 64% were able to keep all current carboplatin patients on the drug. Another 20% said they were able to provide carboplatin to only some patients.

About 16% reported treatment delays because of the need to re-obtain prior authorization for the modified treatment plans. None had received outright denials, the survey showed.

“These results demonstrate the widespread impact of the chemotherapy shortage,” said Alyssa Schatz, senior director of policy and advocacy for NCCN. “We hope that by sharing this survey and calling for united action across the oncology community, we can come together to prevent future drug shortages and ensure quality, effective, equitable and accessible cancer care for all.”

Together, the drugs are estimated to be used to treat the cancers of as many as 500,000 new patients each year.

Fortunately, a Chinese company may soon help boost the supply of cisplatin in particular.

On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it is working with the Chinese drugmaker Qilu Pharmaceutical to import the widely used cancer drug. The Canadian pharmaceutical company Apotex will distribute the medication in 50-milligram vials, CNN reported.

Health care providers were able to begin ordering the drug on Tuesday.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more on how chemotherapy drugs work.

SOURCE: National Comprehensive Cancer Network, news release, June 7, 2023

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