Over 90% of U.S. Cancer Centers Impacted by Drug Shortage

A new survey reveals that 93% of cancer centers in the United States face a shortage of carboplatin, a chemotherapy drug used to treat multiple cancers.

Seven in 10 (70%) cancer centers report shortages for cisplatin, another chemotherapy drug used in combination with carboplatin, according to the survey by The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), an alliance of leading academic cancer centers.

Although 100% of the centers reported being still able to treat patients with cisplatin without any delays or claim denials, only 64% of the centers are able to keep all current carboplatin patients on the regimen. One in five (20%) of the centers said they are able to continue carboplatin prescriptions for some but not all patients.

Overall, 16% report treatment delays as a result of needing to re-obtain prior authorization for modified treatment plans, but none have met with outright denials.

"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," says Robert W. Carlson, M.D., Chief Executive Officer, NCCN.

Carlson says the organization was "relieved" to learn that patients are still able to receive life-saving care, but it "comes at a burden to our overtaxed medical facilities."

Carboplatin and cisplatin are platinum-based chemotherapies that are frequently used together for systemic treatment. Platinum-based medications are prescribed for 10% to 20% of all cancer patients and have been proven to be highly effective against lung, breast, and prostate cancers, as well as many leukemias and lymphomas.

Some centers said the shortage of carboplatin increased the cisplatin shortage because patients who were previously on carboplatin were shifted to cisplatin.

While 60% of the centers surveyed did not receive any indication from their manufacturers or suppliers when carboplatin will be readily available, some were told it could be the first or second week in June.

More than a dozen cancer medications are currently listed as "in shortage" by U.S. regulators. Responding to the shortage, the FDA has recently authorized the temporary importation of cisplatin from China. The 50-milligram vials will be distributed in the United States market by the Canadian company Apotex.

The FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said in a tweet that the agency very carefully assess product quality and require companies to take certain measures to ensure that foreign-approved versions of medications are safe for patients.

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