'Record' drug shortages include cancer meds

The FDA has released its latest list of scarce drugs, and several cancer drugs are included. That's causing consternation around the country as some cancer patients have to wait--or forego--chemotherapy with particular drugs that are running short. In all, some 150 drugs are on the FDA's scarcity list, "a record number of shortages," FDA's Valerie Jensen tells UPI.

Drugs run short for a variety of reasons: Increased demand for a particular treatment, short supplies of active ingredients, manufacturing problems, recalls...and because some older drugs are only made by a handful of manufacturers, when one company's production slows or stops, that affects the entire supply. For instance, the cancer drug cisplatin is made by three companies--APP, Teva Pharmaceuticals ($TEVA) and Bedford--and both Teva and Bedford report manufacturing delays, while APP, understandably, is struggling to keep up with increased demand.

The chemo drugs are attracting the most attention; they happen to be among the scarce products that are most in demand, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists tells the Wall Street Journal Health Blog. And given the nature of the disease, treatment delays can be serious. "When we're forced to treat patients without that drug, we know we are giving suboptimal treatment," Michael Link, president elect of ASCO, tells the Health Blog. "And it's adding stress at a time when [patients] can ill afford it."

- see the FDA report
- read the news from WJAC-TV
- check out the UPI story
- get more from the Health Blog