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Chemo Shortage Improved But Remains an ‘Ongoing Crisis’

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While there has been a slight improvement in the availability of platinum-based chemotherapy agents, most institutions are still facing shortages and “living paycheck to paycheck” with the drugs, a survey revealed.

A recent survey of National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN)-designated cancer centers revealed that 86% of surveyed institutions are experiencing a shortage of at least one type of cancer-treating drug. More specifically, 72% reported continued shortages of carboplatin, and 59% reported shortages of cisplatin.

Chart comparing cisplatin and carboplatin shortages in May vs September 2023

Most NCCN-designated cancer centers are still reporting shortages of cisplatin and/or carboplatin, according to a recent survey.

These statistics, which were collected in September 2023, show improvements in drug availability rates compared with those observed this summer. According to a survey of NCCN-designated cancer centers that was collected in May, 93% of centers reported carboplatin shortages and 70% reported cisplatin shortages.

“Everyone with cancer should have access to the best possible treatment according to the latest evidence and expert consensus guidelines,” Dr. Robert W. Carlson, chief executive officer for NCCN, said in a press release outlining the new survey findings.

According to a September 2023 statement from the White House, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been working to improve access to these chemotherapy agents, by taking steps such as allowing the importing of cisplatin from an FDA-registered facility out of the country to collaborating with clinicians and drug manufacturers to ensure access to medications that are in short supply.

While the availability of these drugs has improved over the last few months, there is still more work to be done.

More CURE® coverage of the chemotherapy shortage:

“Drug shortages aren’t new, but the widespread impact makes this one particularly alarming. It is extremely concerning that this situation continues despite significant attention and effort over the past few months. We need enduring solutions in order to safeguard people with cancer and address any disparities in care,” Carlson said.

Regarding the carboplatin shortage, a surveyed NCCN cancer center made the following comment: “We have sufficient supply to treat patients; however, we never know if our back orders are going to be filled. It’s still living paycheck to paycheck.”

About the cisplatin availability, one institution noted, “Like carboplatin, we get supplies in weekly that barely cover our usage. But so far, we have not restricted usage beyond our current regular guidelines.”

Notably, 95% of centers reported that they were able to treat patients receiving a carboplatin- or cisplatin-containing regimen according to their intended dose and schedule, though one comment noted that their institution has “barely been getting by week by week.”

Experts have also noted that there has been poor communication between drug manufacturers and/or suppliers. In fact, 62% of surveyed institutions said that they have not received any indication from the manufacturers/suppliers about when carboplatin will be readily available, while 71% reported the same for the availability of cisplatin. With institutions mentioning that, the availability dates outlined by the manufacturers/suppliers are often inaccurate and continue to be pushed back.

“These drug shortages are the result of decades of systemic challenges,” Alyssa Schatz, senior director of Policy and Advocacy for NCCN, said in the release. “We recognize that comprehensive solutions take time, and we appreciate everyone who has put forth proposals to improve investment in generics and our data infrastructure. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that the cancer drug shortage has been ongoing for months, which is unacceptable for anyone impacted by cancer today. These new survey results remind us that we are still in an ongoing crisis and must respond with appropriate urgency.”

The press release from the NCCN also mentioned that the centers involved in the survey are academic centers throughout the United States and may not accurately reflect the challenges and circumstances of smaller community practices.

“We are grateful for all of the progress that has been made since June, but we won’t rest until we know we can prevent anti-cancer drug shortages from happening in the future,” Carlson said.


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