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'Shortages' of Cancer Drugs


Several chemotherapy drugs have made the list of those in short supply, according to the Wall Street Journal Health Blog. Cancer patients across the US are being told that they must find alternatives to their planned therapies, says blogger Katherine Hobson. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, — which keeps a growing shortage list, now numbering 140 different medications — says several doxorubicin products are in limited supply because of manufacturing problems and an unexpected increase in demand. Vincristine, which is used to treat leukemia and some pediatric cancers, is also becoming scarce, Hobson says, as are lung and testicular cancer drug etoposide, and testicular cancer drug cisplatin. Unfortunately for patients, most of these drugs don't have suitable alternatives — studies have shown that patient outcome improves when these drugs are added to therapy regimens and doctors worry about giving patients "suboptimal treatment" without them, Hobson says. Researchers are investigating long-term solutions for these shortages, including the possibility of pushing back so-called arbitrary expiration dates on some pharmaceuticals.

The Scan

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