Cancer drugs shortage could delay when patients get life saving treatments

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two drugs for cancer patients are in short supply and that shortage could delay when patients can get life saving treatments. The drugs, cisplatin and carboplatin, used to be as widely available as aspirin but now 70% to 90% of doctors in the country that treat cancer have reported difficulty getting the drugs for their patients.

Cisplatin and Carboplatin are among hundreds of drugs on the FDA shortage list. “These are very important drugs that we have used for many years and we have used for many cancers,” Dr. Scot Ackerman, Medical Director of Ackerman Cancer Center said.

Cisplatin and Carboplatin are used for breast, colon, ovarian, throat, head, neck and cervical cancers. Dr. Ackerman provides radiation oncology treatment and says there are other drug options but those drugs could be more expensive or have more side effects. He’s heard from patients almost every week who want help during the drug shortage.

“Two or three times a week I’m asked by patients to advocate for them so they can receive their drug in a more timely manner,” Dr. Ackerman said.

A News4JAX viewer who is a uterine cancer patient said the shortage impacted them in the middle of chemo treatment.

“We see anywhere from, on the clinic side, anywhere from 30 to 35 patients a day,” Dr. Caitlin Barnes said. Dr. Barnes is an Oncology Pharmacist for the University of Florida. There are six clinics in Jacksonville.

When asked about the shortage, Dr. Barnes said, “So, most of it is due to a simple manufacturing delay. Sometimes we get information on what the reason for that is, and other times we don’t.”

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the shortage comes from a company in India that manufactures the drugs. It has been shut down and now the FDA is considering another company in China.

“We have been very lucky that we have not had to change anyone’s treatment here at UF Health,” Dr. Barnes said. “I know other infusion centers may not be as lucky but we have been able to procure enough product.”

The FDA reports that the shortage could last for months, meaning some patients may have to delay treatment.

Dr. Ackerman said it’s important for a patient to talk to their oncologist by discussing the chemotherapy they will receive and discuss treatment options.

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