Cancer drug shortages hit U.S.
More than 80 percent of U.S. oncology doctors say they have faced a shortage of cancer drugs, according to a new study. And the research from the Abramson Cancer Center and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, found that in nearly all of those cases, the patients' treatment plans were affected. The greatest effects were felt in the treatment of pediatric, gastrointestinal and blood cancers.
The researchers took a random sample of 500 board-certified U.S. oncologists between late 2012 and early 2013. Doctors were asked about services during the previous six months and how drug shortages have affected their practices. Of the 250 who responded to the survey,the vast majority struggled with allocation of the drugs.
The study also found that 78 percent of oncologists reported having to change a patient's treatment to a different drug or different drug regimen, 77 percent substituted different drugs partway through therapy, and 43 percent were forced to delay their patients' treatment,
Also, 37 percent said they had to choose among patients who needed a particular drug, 29 percent omitted doses, 20 percent reduced doses, and 17 percent referred patients to other doctors.
Generic drugs tend to be most difficult to obtain -- sometimes due to manufacturing problems, but often, the study authors note, as a result of decisions by drug makers to deprioritize production of generics due to their slim profit margin.