Cancer Drug Shortage


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Ivanhoe Newswire) – More than 200 drugs are now facing a critical nationwide shortage, including penicillin and amoxicillin, two widely used antibiotics. But the shortages that are proving to be the most devastating are those used to treat cancers. Right now, there are 14 life-saving cancer drugs facing shortages. But three of these drugs could mean the difference between life and death, leaving doctors with some very difficult decisions to make.

Methotrexate, cisplatin, and carboplatin are more than just the go-to drugs for a number of different cancers – for thousands of patients, they are the hope for a cure. But more than 90 percent of cancer centers in the U.S. have reported critical shortages of these drugs, and some have already run out.

“Cancer patients have a lot on their minds. The last thing that they should need to worry about is can they get the medication they need,” says pharmacy director at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Makala Pace, PharmD.

(Read Full Interview)

Doctors are resorting to lowering doses to ration the drugs, or switching patients to a different drug with more severe side effects. Some doctors will have to decide which patients to prioritize, such as those still in the early stages of the disease and who have the highest chance of survival.

Pace adds, “We always encourage patients to advocate for themselves. Specifically, I hear, ‘My medication is on shortage. Am I gonna be able to get it?’”

Patients are also encouraged to regularly check the drug shortage database on If one of your medications is getting critically low, the sooner you and your doctor can come up with an alternative treatment plan, the better.

One of the main reasons for the shortage has to do with a factory in India failing an FDA inspection. That factory made 50 percent of those cancer drugs and there’s no word on when they’ll be up and running again. For a short term solution, the FDA is allowing some chemotherapy drugs to be temporarily imported from China.

Contributors to this news report include: Jessica Sanchez, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5270

BACKGROUND: Cancer is a disease that occurs when genetic changes causes cells begin to grow uncontrollably. It’s estimated that almost two million people will develop cancer this year in the United States, and over 600,000 deaths will happen. There are four types of cancer: carcinomas, sarcomas, leukemias, and lymphomas. Cancer can be treated many different ways, including chemotherapy, surgery, immunotherapy, and medications – depending on what type of cancer you have. But the U.S. is facing a nationwide drug shortage, so cancer drugs are becoming low in stock.


DIAGNOSING: Common cancer symptoms are: unexplained weight loss, persistent pain, fever, skin changes, bruising, bleeding, difficulty breathing or swallowing. Some symptoms can change depending on what kind of cancer you have. Doctors may diagnose cancer with a physical exam, lab tests, CT scans, PET scans, MRIs, or a biopsy. It’s important to get a diagnosis as early as possible to come up with a good treatment plan and have a better chance at survival.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: The United States is in the middle of a nationwide drug shortage, specifically cancer drugs. Because of this, doctors have had to shift how they treat cancer patients. According to experts, the drug shortage is mostly a result of a factory in India not passing inspection. A short-term solution that the FDA approved is importing some cancer drugs from China.



Avery Shrader

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Makala Pace, Pharmacy Director

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