Monday, June 5, 2023

Cancer patients are confronting widespread shortages of chemotherapy drugs, paper reports

The lives of cancer patients are being put at risk by record-high shortages of effective chemotherapy.

That's the main point of a story by Rene Ebersole in today's editions of The Washington Post.

Dr. Satyajit Kosuri
The story quotes Dr. Satyajit Kosuri, clinical director of the stem cell transplant and cellular therapy program at the University of Chicago, to the effect that the "majority are cheap, generic drugs that have been utilized in cancer medicine for decades." 

At the end of 2022, the story says, "there were 295 active medication shortages, ranging from antibiotics and anesthetics to cardiac medications and chemotherapy drugs." 

The increase was 30 percent above the previous year, according to a Homeland  Security and Governmental Affairs report.

Chemo drugs, "particularly those used to treat kids' cancers," Ebersole's piece asserts, "are among those medications experiencing some of the most prolonged shortages, says Dr. Yoram Unguru, a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at the Children's Hospital at Sinai and the core faculty, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics."

Unguru also is quoted as saying, "We don't have alternatives…This isn't strep throat or some other infection where if I don't have amoxicillin, I can swap it out for something that's probably if not as good, almost as good."

The drug shortage crisis stems in part from "low profit margins on generic drugs, an overreliance on foreign manufacturing, increasing quality risks, and brittle supply chains," the story contends. 

Dr. Yoram Unguru
Drugs in short supply, Unguru notes, are "older, generic injectable drugs that companies don't get a huge profit on." 

Because of that low profit factor, few companies make them.

"One recent meta-analysis found that a four-week treatment delay," the story continues, "can be associated with increased sickness or mortality for more than 40 percent of common cancers, including bladder, breast, colon, and lung cancer."

More information about Big Pharma and drugs can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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