The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is seeing "a record number of shortages" this year, said Valerie Jensen of the FDA's drug shortage program. This is putting pressure on hospitals and doctors which in certain cases have been forced to search for acceptable alternative treatments. Most shortages are for injectable medications (also called sterile injectibles), including several for cancer, Ms. Jensen said.
Doxorubicin, a generic drug also known as adriamycin, is a common treatment for some breast cancers and lymphomas, is in short supply causing some patients to receive alterhative regimens.
The drug cisplatin is also in short supply. Cisplatin is a mainstay treatment for testicular cancer, and is also used for other cancers.
Shortages also exist for Leucovorin which is frequently used in combination with fluoruracil to treat cancers such as colon and rectal, head and neck, esophageal, and other cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. It can also be used as an antidote to effects of certain chemotherapy drugs such as methotrexate.
Bleomycin is a chemotherapy drug that is administered for the treatment of several types of cancer, including squamous cell carcinomas, testicular cancer, head and neck cancers, and lymphomas. It works as an antineoplastic drug, meaning that it is a tumor antibiotic and is toxic to fast growing cells. Some hospitals are experiencing difficulting in procuring Bleomycin.
In a recent MSNBC online story, Jensen said 40 percent of the shortages are due to manufacturing problems, 20 percent because a firm stops making a drug and 20 percent from production delays. The basic cause, she said, is the drugs are not as profitable as newer ones. According to a report on Fierce Pharma drugs run short for a variety of reasons: Increased demand for a particular treatment, short supplies of active ingredients, manufacturing problems, recalls...and because some older drugs are only made by a handful of manufacturers, when one company's production slows or stops, that affects the entire supply. For instance, the cancer drug cisplatin is made by three companies--APP, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Bedford--and both Teva and Bedford report manufacturing delays, while APP, understandably, is struggling to keep up with increased demand.
It is important to be vigilant and to inquire about the availilbity of enough medication to complete your prescribed regimen if a generic injectible cancer medication is prescribed.
For further information you can refer to these articles:
NCI Cancer Bulletin
Wall Street Journal
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