Cancer drug shortages 'a moving target,' cancer centers say

A year after multiple popular oncology treatments were in short supply, U.S. cancer centers are still struggling to stock enough cancer therapies. 

In June 2023, 70% of cancer centers lacked sufficient cisplatin supply and 93% faced shortages of carboplatin. Cisplatin and carboplatin supply levels have since improved (centers experiencing shortages have dropped to 7% and 11%, respectively), but new drug shortages have emerged. 

Managing the drug shortage issue "remains a moving target," according to a June 26 news release from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

Between May 28 and June 11, 57% of cancer centers reported they have a shortage of vinblastine, a lymphoma therapy that does not have an equal alternative; 46% lack etoposide, which treats small cell lung cancer and testicular cancer; and 43% are short on topotecan, a therapy for cervical cancer, ovarian cancer and small cell lung cancer. 

Other cancer drugs in shortage include dacarbazine, 5-fluorouracil and methotrexate. 

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network said these medications "form the backbones" of regimens for curative and palliative treatments.  

"These shortages not only put a burden on patients, caregivers and providers, but they could also delay vital clinical trials and slow the pace of progress for new cancer therapies," NCCN CEO Crystal Denlinger, MD, said in the release. 

During the shortages, cancer centers said they are improving waste management strategies and adjusting doses and administration times.

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