US Cancer Centers Are Experiencing Ongoing Widespread Shortages Of Chemotherapy Drugs, According To Survey 

According to a survey released last week by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, among 29 cancer centers across America, 72% have reported a shortage of carboplatin, a chemotherapy medication. Additionally, 59% have been experiencing a shortage of the drug cisplatin. 

Of all the centers involved in the survey, 86% reported a shortage of at least one kind of anti-cancer or chemotherapy drug. 

This specific survey from the network is an updated version of their survey May in which they found that 93% of the respondents reported a shortage of carboplatin with 70% reporting a shortage of cisplatin. The updated survey was conducted between September 6th to the 20th and took data from 29 of the 33 institutions within the cancer network. 

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“Cisplatin and other similar platinum-based drugs are prescribed for an estimated 10% to 20% of all cancer patients,” according to the National Cancer Institute.

According to the American Association for Cancer Research, several cancer medications have been experiencing shortages within the past few years, with record breaking shortages occurring this year. 

In September, The White House released a report that stated the US has a shortage of 15 cancer drugs. Cisplatin, carboplatin and methotrexate are three of the more generic medications for cancer treatments that have been used for decades. In the report, the White House stated these shortages are mainly due to manufacturing and supply chain issues. 

“Everyone with cancer should have access to the best possible treatment according to the latest evidence and expert consensus guidelines,” Dr. Robert Carlson, CEO of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, said.

“Drug shortages aren’t new, but the widespread impact makes this one particularly alarming. It is extremely concerning that this situation continues despite significant attention and effort over the past few months. We need enduring solutions in order to safeguard people with cancer and address any disparities in care.”

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Dr. William Dahut, the chief scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, stated that carboplatin and cisplatin are known as “core drugs for treating cancer.” 

“The manufacturing side is really the aspect that’s most important to get this right,” he said, as reported by CNN.

“Should there be some drugs in reserve? Should there be the ability to look at supply chains or economic issues? But who actually would enforce those? Who would pay for those? How would that work? I think that needs to be worked out. But I do think a short-term, medium-term and long-term philosophy is needed, as opposed to moving from crisis to crisis,” Dahut stated. 

The centers also stated that several other cancer medications are in short supply; 66% reported a shortage of methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug, 55% experienced a shortage of 5-fluorouracil, 45% for chemotherapy fludarabine, and 41% for hydrocortisone. 

“These drug shortages are the result of decades of systemic challenges,” Alyssa Schatz, the network’s senior director of policy and advocacy, said according to CNN..

“We recognize that comprehensive solutions take time and we appreciate everyone who has put forth proposals to improve investment in generics and our data infrastructure. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that the cancer drug shortage has been ongoing for months, which is unacceptable for anyone impacted by cancer today. These new survey results remind us that we are still in an ongoing crisis and must respond with appropriate urgency,” Schatz said.