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Oncology Drug Shortages are Serious Problem

Posted by floriza in Oncology

Drug shortages in the United States are a big problem, but it is an even worse problem for oncology. According to a report published November 14 by the IMS Institute, 500,000 cancer patients may not be able to gain access to the oncology drugs they need as a result of these shortages.

Invoice and buying data from the American Society of Health System Pharmacists and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) was evaluated for the report. Shortages for more than 232 medications were found. Sixteen percent of the drugs that are in short supply are oncology pharmaceuticals. This category was the highest percentage found in the study. Next highest are anti-infective drugs at 15 percent, followed by cardiovascular pharmaceuticals at 12 percent.

Due to these shortages, patients are beginning to report that the medications they require have not been available to them. This includes chemotherapy drugs that are the standard for oncology care. As a result, patients often have to spend more money for the drugs that are available, whether receiving their care for oncology in New Jersey or elsewhere.

Reasons for the Drug Shortages

Manufacturing issues are primarily at fault, according to the report. The FDA must impose strict regulations on pharmaceutical companies, and if those requirements are not met, a company must stop manufacturing the drug in question. Manufacturers are also sometimes unwilling to adhere to the regulations. Therefore, they never begin production of the drugs again.

Some of the medications on the shortage list are manufactured by only one or two companies, while the majority of the drugs on the list are only made by three companies. The researchers found that 13 pharmaceutical manufacturers have ceased producing some of the oncology drugs within the last two years. With so few companies making these drugs, it takes little to upset the supply, as increased demand cannot be met by a single company when a shortage occurs.

Shortages Expected to Worsen in 2012

The researchers fear that the number of drugs in short supply could rise to 300 by 2012. Oncology medication shortages have been increasing steadily during the last couple of years. At times, the FDA has been forced to allow medications to be imported from other countries.

“A gray market” has emerged as a result of the shortages, with physicians and medical facilities hoarding or stealing the drugs and re-selling them at a profit. The American Society of Health System Pharmacists hopes that systems will be put into place so that warnings can be provided to alert the appropriate authorities to reduced medication supplies. In this way, the shortages can be identified before they become serious, and remedies could potentially be instituted to prevent such patient suffering.


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