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Patient Concerns Around Chemo Shortage Are ‘Valid,’ Pharmacist Says

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Efforts are being made to curb the ongoing chemotherapy shortage, and while things have gotten better, there is still more work to do.

While industry and political efforts may have moved the needle for some institutions regarding the chemotherapy shortage, more needs to be done, as many patients are facing difficulty getting common cancer drugs, such as cisplatin, carboplatin and methotrexate, explained Rose DiMarco, oncology pharmacy manager at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia.

“I want to validate the concern that (patients) may not be able to receive treatment. That concern keeps us up at night as well, and I want our patients to know that we are exploring all possible options for every shortage,” DiMarco said in an interview with CURE®.

DiMarco mentioned that the shortage has been stressful for her and her colleagues, though her institution was fortunate enough to be able to acquire chemotherapy for all Jefferson Health sites. However, she admitted that her team has to “keep an eye on (drug) usage, which requires running reports and more counting.”

The United States government is also closely monitoring the chemotherapy shortage and implementing steps to mitigate it. In a September 2023 announcement, the White House outlined that the Food and Drug Administration has taken the following steps to address the issue:

  • Helped cancer drug manufacturers to identify opportunities to boost production of drugs that are experiencing a shortage, as well as allowed an important of 14 lots of cisplatin from an FDA-registered facility located outside of the country. According to the statement, “these actions brought the cisplatin supply back to nearly 100% of the pre-shortage levels and are greatly alleviating the shortages of carboplatin.”
  • Worked with the five manufacturers of generic methotrexate to increase supplies.
  • Collaborate with health care professionals and drug manufacturers to ensure access to cancer treatments and other medications that are in short supply.

Despite these steps, the White House statement did mention that the shortages have not fully been resolved.

DiMarco agrees.

“Drug shortages are not always the same across the country, but overall, the shortage continues,” she said, mentioning that there needs to be better communication between health care providers and drug manufacturers, as, in her experience, clinicians are often hearing about supply chain issues last minute. “The manufacturers will sometimes list a restock date when supply is supposed to be available, but most times, those dates are not accurate and can lead to more stress and confusion.”

With patients and their loved ones directly affected by these supply chain issues, it is essential that they keep open lines of communication with their oncology team, DiMarco said.

“Unfortunately, there is not much patients can do because it is often out of our control as well. However, if a patient ever has an questions or concerns, they should feel comfortable asking their care team. From an oral medication standpoint, patients should always lets us know if they're having trouble getting their medications. While that may be out of our control as well, we can certainly help to see if the medication is available elsewhere or see if an alternative is a possibility,” she said.

image of chemotherapy

More CURE® coverage of the chemotherapy shortage:


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