Cancer patient concerned about critical drug shortage, ‘it’s depressing and distressing’

Elena Johnston is a cancer patient getting chemotherapy infusions. In the middle of treatments, her treatment center ran out of carboplatin, then they put her on cisplatin. News4JAX reported last week that there was a critical shortage of the two drugs for cancer patients. It can delay when patients get treatments to beat cancer.

Johnston said some patients don’t know which drug they will get until the day before treatment.

“I went through a series of radiation treatments and then started on chemo. I was recommended to do a series of six chemo sessions three weeks apart with the carboplatin,” Johnston said.

She was diagnosed just days after the holidays on December 29, 2022. Her journey began with a total hysterectomy.

70% to 90% of doctors that treat cancer in the United States have reported a shortage of carboplatin and cisplatin. The shortage began on the other side of the globe.

According to the FDA, there was a primary manufacturer of the drugs in India, it has since been shut down for quality control concerns. The FDA is now shifting to a company in China.

“You’re not only dealing with a cancer diagnosis but you’re also dealing with the fact that you might not get the drugs that are going to save your life. That’s the critical thing,” Johnston said.

A reality that sometimes takes a toll. “It’s depressing and distressing and what can I do, what I have done is let all of my friends know that this is happening and it needs to be addressed quickly because time is of the essence,” Johnston said.

This past Friday Johnston got her third of four treatments with cisplatin; she described it as a rougher treatment for her liking.

With two more treatments, she doesn’t know where those will come from or if those will be on time, but she’s looking ahead to the end of the year; she hopes to beat cancer and says she hopes to have her hair back by Christmas.

Johnston said she hopes that Senators and Representatives get involved to fix the shortage.

News4JAX reached out to Florida U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.

Senator Marco Rubio sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf regarding the decision to temporarily import this oncology drug from a Chinese pharmaceutical company. Rubio also requested transparency on the agency’s approval process of this manufacturer

Senator Rick Scott also sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, asking for answers to “better understand, mitigate and eliminate growing drug shortages that are especially devastating to older Americans.”

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