Cancer Drug Shortages Could Put Chemo Patient Treatment At Risk

Source: CBS News

61-year-old Carol Noon has an aggressive form of endometrial cancer. It’s treatable, but the night before her second dose of chemotherapy, she received a call from her doctor to inform her that the hospital had run out of her treatment medicine.

Thankfully, Noon got her dose a week later. She says, “It’s very frustrating to know that there’s a standard of care, these two generic drugs, and I can’t get them.”

Patients like Noon are given carboplatin and cisplatin, generic medications that aren’t profitable for manufacturers to produce — and few are made in the U.S.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the international supply chain for cancer medications has been strained and the situation has become dire. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors found “widespread problems” at a factory in India that makes more than half of the U.S. supply of cisplatin.

In March, the FDA reported that Pluvicto — a drug used to treat advanced prostate cancer — is in short supply. The drug is manufactured only in Italy.

A report also released in March by the Senate Homeland Security Committee found that 295 drugs were in short supply in the U.S. last year, marking a five-year high.

“We had to make some decisions about who we were going to prioritize during this difficult time,” said oncologist Dr. Kari Wisinski with the University of Wisconsin Health, who told CBS News she had never seen a shortage this serious.

“The question is, could people die because of this shortage?” Wisinksi asked. “I think it all depends on how long it occurred. If we experienced a prolonged shortage of chemotherapy, then yes, I do think people could die.”

In response, the FDA last month temporarily began importing cisplatin from a Chinese drug manufacturer Qilu Pharmaceutical, which is not FDA approved.

“Someday, I’m gonna die,” Noon said. “(But) I really would rather not die because these standard generic drugs weren’t available to me.”

“I can’t imagine my family having that doubt and my friends having that doubt: Was it the cancer, or was it that there was not enough chemotherapy and it got rationed?”

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