Doctors issue dire warning to cancer patients amid ‘historical’ shortage of life-saving drugs

Doctors are warning that patients will die as a historic cancer drug shortage takes hold in the United States, putting the lives of tens of thousands at risk because of the lack of investment in generic medicines and because we get most of our injectable drugs supplied from overseas.

(Video Credit: NBC News)

As the supply of cancer drugs runs out it will leave patients are the mercy of cancers that spread rapidly without anything to stop them, many times resulting in death. A whole range of cancers will be affected such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children, metastatic ovarian cancer, and bladder cancer. There are many others on that list because the five drugs that are in short supply are used to treat a whole host of cancers, according to the Daily Mail.

Some of the shortages are expected to last months which could be a death sentence for many. Healthcare professionals are being blunt about it, claiming that people will definitely die before manufacturers can ramp up production and fix supply problems.

Doctors are doing everything they can to find alternative treatments but most won’t work in place of cancer drugs.

Drug shortages in the US have now become common under the Biden administration, A Senate report published in March found that shortages of common medications such as the antibiotic amoxicillin, Tamiflu and over-the-counter cold and flu medications such as children’s Tylenol have increased by almost 30 percent between 2021 and 2022.

Between it not being profitable for US manufacturers to make generic drugs and the fact that we get 90 to 95% of injectable drugs from foreign countries, the shortage is a ticking time bomb for cancer patients.

Dr. Vimala Raghavendran, who is the senior director of the pharmaceutical supply chain center at US Pharmacopeia told CNN in April, “Manufacturers only receive pennies per dose for some of these drugs.”

There is a shortage of injectable drug methotrexate, which is used to treat cancers such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children. There is also a shortage of the drug cisplatin that treats metastatic ovarian and bladder cancer.

Fluorouracil, which is used to treat skin, colon, breast, pancreas, and stomach cancers is also getting hard to find, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

Methotrexate manufacturers Accord and Pfizer told the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) that the drug is back-ordered due to manufacturing delays, while Fresenius Kabi, Teva, and Hikma did not comment on why there is a shortage.

Cisplatin makers WG Critical Care, Hikma, and Teva also didn’t comment on why fluorouracil supplier Fresenius Kabi cited increased demand for the drug.

According to the Daily Mail, manufacturers claim there might not be any relief in sight until June.

There is also a shortage of BCG, a drug used to treat bladder cancer.

The injectable drug Pluvicto, which is used to treat advanced prostate cancer, is also experiencing a shortage. Novartis is blaming production glitches at its manufacturing facility in Italy which reportedly caused the company to halt further supply to new patients until it can produce more of the drug.

The FDA says the drug is expected to be unavailable for four months while it gets approval to open US facilities to manufacture it. For someone with stage 4 prostate cancer, that is potentially a death sentence.

Jonathan McConathy, who is the director of the division of molecular imaging and therapeutics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham bluntly told the Wall Street Journal, “People will die from this shortage, for sure.”

Andrei Iagaru, who is a professor of radiology-nuclear medicine at Stanford University also commented, “You’ve got to tell people that they have to wait when you actually know that they don’t have that much time left… Any delay is impactful.”

Millions of Americans could be impacted by the shortages. There were over 5.8 million prescriptions for methotrexate in 2020 alone. Cisplatin is a common chemotherapy drug that is used to treat many forms of cancer. There were also approximately 962,000 prescriptions for fluorouracil in 2020.

Dr. David Margraf, who is a pharmaceutical research scientist at CIDRAP stated, “Patients may have already exhausted other treatment options and have few remaining choices. Oncology drug shortages reduce the expected survival times of patients, which leaves them less time to spend with their loved ones. It’s truly a tragedy.”

As of the end of 2022, there were 295 drug shortages in the US, according to the Daily Mail. Seventeen of them have been in short supply for over a decade.


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