National cancer group reports widespread chemo shortages, calls on government and industry to help resolve them

As pharma supply chain problems drag on, a shortage of key cancer drugs has afflicted a large number of treatment centers and many patients. Now, a leading treatment center group is putting more statistics behind the shortage.

Late last month, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Best Practices Committee conducted a survey (PDF) of 27 member centers across the U.S. The group found that nearly all treatment centers, or 93%, reported a carboplatin shortage. In addition, 70% of the centers reported a cisplatin shortage. 

The two platinum-based chemotherapies are widely used as standard of care for many types of cancer, NCCN points out.

Some treatment centers commented that the cisplatin shortage is not as critical as the carboplatin situation. All centers said they are able to treat patients who need a cisplatin regimen.

When it comes to carboplatin, 64% of centers are able to treat all patients who need the drug. Twenty percent of centers can treat some patients who need carboplatin, but not all, according to the survey.

In a statement, NCCN called on multiple actors to help mitigate the shortage. The group noted that the federal government must maintain a regulatory environment that ensures a steady supply of critical cancer drugs.

For its part, the pharmaceutical industry must “accept and act upon the ethical and moral obligation” to do the same, the organization said in its statement (PDF).

As for providers, the NCCN said that available cancer meds must be “judiciously utilized” and prioritized by efficacy, safety and cost. 

“The causes and solutions to the recurrent anti-cancer drug shortages that deprive oncology patients of optimal therapy are multiple and fixable,” NCCN noted.

The FDA is providing assistance where it can, but its oncology chief Richard Pazdur, M.D., recently told The Cancer Letter that industry production shortfalls are partly to blame.

Also at the FDA, Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D., last week said the agency will allow cisplatin to be imported to the U.S. from Chinese manufacturer Qilu Pharmaceutical to “help meet patient needs."

The agency also is allowing India’s Intas Pharmaceuticals to resume shipping cisplatin, carboplatin and 14 other injectables to the U.S. despite the company’s dings for manufacturing deficiencies. Intas will have to complete a third-party review and testing of its imported products.