If health officials are finding it difficult to resolve the drug-shortages problem, then it's probably because individual companies are finding it difficult to resolve their own drug shortages. Take Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), whose Doxil cancer drug has been in short supply. A new letter from J&J's Janssen unit president Rob Bazemore, posted on the Doxil website, admits the company has few options for fixing its supply problems.
Dow Jones, which has been closely following the Doxil shortage, reports Bazemore sympathized with the cancer patients who are frustrated they can't get access to Doxil; he's a cancer survivor himself. But while his company is "ultimately accountable" for the shortage and takes "full responsibility for the shortage and its ultimate resolution," there's little J&J can do at this point, the letter states.
That's because J&J contracted out its Doxil manufacturing to Ben Venue Laboratories, a unit of Boehringer Ingelheim that has been struggling to fix a series of production problems--including manufacturing shortfalls flagged by the FDA. J&J doesn't have the power to move in and fix Ben Venue's problems. (Of course, there's no guarantee that J&J actually could fix the problems if it had the opportunity, given its own manufacturing difficulties.)
"[O]ur options to resolve the production difficulties on the part of the independent specialty manufacturer we hired are limited," Bazemore's letter stated (as quoted by Dow Jones). So, patients remain on the Doxil waiting list. Clinical trials of other cancer drugs in combination with Doxil--or in comparison with Doxil--remain on hold.
- read the Dow Jones story
Special Report: Top drug shortages by treatment category