CNN: More than 90% of large US cancer centers report shortage of life-saving chemo drugs in new survey

Author: Jacqueline Howard
Date: June 7, 2023

Among some of the nation’s largest cancer centers, more than 90% have reported being directly affected by the current shortage of chemotherapy drugs in the United States, according to a new survey.

The survey results, released Wednesday by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, show that among 27 cancer centers across the country, the majority – 93% – have reported experiencing a shortage of the chemotherapy medication carboplatin, and 70% reported a similar shortage of the drug cisplatin. Carboplatin and cisplatin are used in combination to cure many types of cancer.

“This is an unacceptable situation. We are hearing from oncologists and pharmacists across the country who have to scramble to find appropriate alternatives for treating their patients with cancer right now,” Dr. Robert Carlson, the network’s chief executive officer, said in a news release Wednesday.

It’s estimated that 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.

“We were relieved by survey results that show patients are still able to get life-saving care, but it comes at a burden to our overtaxed medical facilities,” Carlson said. “We need to work together to improve the current situation and prevent it from happening again in the future.”

The results show that 64% of cancer centers surveyed reported still being able to treat all patients who currently receive carboplatin according to the intended dose and schedule of the medication and all centers reported still being able to treat patients who are currently taking cisplatin. But only about 40% of centers have reported receiving any indication from manufacturers or suppliers about when carboplatin or cisplatin will be readily available.

“These results demonstrate the widespread impact of the chemotherapy shortage,” Alyssa Schatz, senior director of policy and advocacy for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, said in the news release. “We hope that by sharing this survey and calling for united action across the oncology community, we can come together to prevent future drug shortages and ensure quality, effective, equitable, and accessible cancer care for all.”

The survey, conducted by the network from May 23 to 31, included responses from 27 of the network’s 33 member institutions serving cancer patients. The network is a not-for-profit alliance of leading cancer centers in the United States, including Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.

As the United States grapples with an ongoing shortage of drugs, cancer treatments have been among the hardest hit. As of the end of March, about two dozen chemotherapy drugs were in active shortage, the fifth most of any drug category, according to data from the University of Utah Drug Information Service. Based on that data, ongoing and active shortages are the highest since 2014.

On Friday, the US Food And Drug Administration said it would work with Chinese drugmaker Qilu Pharmaceutical to import cisplatin to boost the supply. Canadian pharmaceutical company Apotex will distribute the injectable medication in 50-milligram vials on a temporary basis.