US Cancer Patients Face Treatment Crisis Amid Chemotherapy Drug Shortage - STAT Opinion


Patients across the United States are facing a critical shortage of chemotherapy drugs, specifically platinum-based generic drugs cisplatin and carboplatin, used to treat various types of cancers, Dr. Kristen Rice writes in a STAT News opinion piece.

The Shortage: According to Dr. Rice, a medical oncologist at Medical Oncology Associates of San Diego, the shortage has been severe for about a month and has been brewing for several months. Oncologists are now forced to ration cancer treatment doses, and in some cases, patients are sent to hospital infusion centers that still have these drugs on hand.

Impact on Treatment: The shortage of these drugs, which have been the backbone for lung cancer regimens for decades, is forcing oncologists to consider reducing doses or delaying treatment, potentially impacting patient outcomes. The shortage is also affecting other critical cancer drugs, including doxorubicin, 5-Flourouracil, and generic nab-paclitaxel.

Need for Solutions: The causes of the current wave of shortages are systemic, with no easy solution. The economics of manufacturing generic drugs are broken, with thin profit margins disincentivizing companies from manufacturing them. Dr. Rice calls for a direct response from both the private and public sectors, including tax incentives for generic drug-makers, temporary drug importation, and increased transparency into generic drug quality and manufacturing capacity.

“I honestly don't understand why patients are not rioting in the streets about this. The generic cancer drug shortage can be fixed, but only if the private sector and policymakers each pursue ideas to fix it permanently. Cancer patients' lives depend on it,” Dr. Rice writes for Stat News.

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