ASCO Chief Medical Officer Testifies to Congress on Mitigating and Preventing Cancer Drug Shortages

June 13, 2023

The Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) continues to urge Congress to help prevent and mitigate cancer drug shortages by reauthorizing the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) with provisions to improve the function and composition of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to strengthen the drug and medical supply chain.

On June 13, 2023, ASCO’s Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President Julie R. Gralow, MD, FACP, FASCO, testified in a House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing, “Legislative Solutions to Bolster Preparedness and Response for All Hazards and Public Health Security Threats.” The hearing discussed solutions for preparedness and response to public health security threats and hazards, including PAHPA reauthorization and its programs aimed at strengthening the SNS.

“The pandemic exacerbated long-standing issues that threaten the resilience of our healthcare supply chain,” said Dr. Gralow. “While the Strategic National Stockpile and other programs authorized under PAHPA aided the health care community during the public health emergency, more must be done… PAHPA Reauthorization is an opportunity to advance solutions to improve the supply chain—especially during public health crises.”

ASCO makes the following recommendations to mitigate and prevent cancer drug shortages:

  • Improve the function and composition of the SNS
  • Enhance multinational collaboration on supply chain resilience
  • Incentivize manufacturers to improve quality and transparency
  • Reduce reliance on other countries for critical drug ingredients
  • Analyze domestic drug and device manufacturing capability and capacity for critical products, to avert national security threats

ASCO previously responded to requests for information on PAHPA reauthorization from the Energy and Commerce Committee as well as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The Association’s comments consistently urged policymakers to strengthen and improve the SNS to protect individuals with cancer and their care, especially during future health care crises.

“Today’s shortages are the worst I have seen in my 30-year career,” said Dr. Gralow. “I spoke to a patient diagnosed with endometrial cancer whose team recommended a chemotherapy course that included a platinum agent… When arriving for her second dose, one of the agents was no longer available. You can imagine the anxiety this caused… Eleven oncology drugs are currently in shortage. Four of these—cisplatin, carboplatin, methotrexate, and fludarabine—are commonly used to treat cancer in adults and children… The number of U.S. patients at risk could be as high as 500,000 a year.”

ASCO remains ready to collaborate with Congress and other stakeholders to ensure individuals with cancer receive the treatments they require.

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