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Health Spotlight: Cancer drug shortage

Health Spotlight: Cancer drug shortage

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — More than 200 drugs are now facing a critical nationwide shortage, including penicillin and amoxicillin, two widely used antibiotics, but the shortages are proving to be the most devastating are those used to treat cancers.

There are 14 life-saving cancer drugs facing shortages. This 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’re the hope for a cure, but more than 90% 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,” said Makala Pace, pharmacy director at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

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

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

Patients are also encouraged to check the drug shortage database on the FDA website often.

One of the main reasons for the shortage has to do with a factory in India failing an FDA inspection. That factory made 50% 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.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.