Is There Really a Drug Shortage on Cancer Meds?

Empty Pill Bottles

There is a shortage of drug cancer medications. That can’t be true, can it?

Oh, but it is. As of this week, 28 cancer drugs being taken by more than 550,000 patients across the country are in short supply. You read that right: 28.

In a survey conducted by National Analysts Worldwide in January 2012, 46 percent of oncologists reported that there were times in the past year when patients were unable to receive timely treatment because of product shortages, and 31 percent reported that this occurs each month.

Each month? That means there are thousands of cancer patients not receiving their medication every single month. How can this be happening?

You guessed it: It comes down to the money. Companies that manufacture these medications have a smaller profit margin because many of these cancer-fighting drugs have been made in a generic form. Fewer suppliers are interested in making these expensive medications, even though they are the higher quality product and are not 100 percent replaceable by their generic counterparts.

Doctor Holding His Head

There are actually a few chemotherapeutic agents for mesothelioma that are on the shortage list, such as:

  • Carboplatin: a modified version of Cisplatin; most commonly used to treat ovarian, lung, head, and neck cancers and has recently shown some success in treating mesothelioma.

  • Cisplatin injection: this platinum-based chemotherapy drug is used to treat a variety of cancers; its most basic use is to promote cell death.

  • Doxorubicin injection: one of the most commonly used chemotherapeutic agents to treat mesothelioma. Doxorubicin has shown to extend the life span of mesothelioma patients.

To combat the shortage, a bill was introduced on Capitol Hill that would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and drug makers to develop a list of shortages and allow the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to transfer quotas, among other items. The “Drug Shortage Prevention Act” would require the FDA to take several steps to monitor the problem more aggressively and improve communication within the industry and the medical community.

Besides developing a critical drug list, which would identify drugs that are vulnerable to shortage, the legislation also would require the FDA to notify distributors of an imminent critical shortage. Click here to read the full text of the Drug Shortage Prevention Act.

Are you or someone you know taking any of these cancer medications?

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Nadia Persaud joined the Mesothelioma Center in 2011 as the Social Media Community Analyst. She is excited to be spreading awareness about asbestos safety and new developments in the industry with our online community. If you have a story idea for Nadia, please email her at npersaud@asbestos.com.

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