What would you do if your doctor told you they knew how to treat your cancer, but couldn't get the medicine to do so? How would you feel if the doctor had to choose between giving your loved one or someone else’s the best possible cancer therapy?
These are the impossible choices facing cancer doctors today. Acute shortages of many critical cancer drugs are forcing doctors to decide which of their patients gets the recommended therapy and who has their care delayed or must make do with alternative treatments.
Doctors are struggling to find drugs to treat common cancers like breast, lung, and colon cancers as well as those used to fight childhood leukemia and lymphoma. For many patients, these medicines are key to maximizing their chances of a cure. To go without them is tragic and intolerable.
For others, going without the best available treatments could mean poorer outcomes, including reduced survival and increased adverse effects. No patient can be sure they won’t be affected.
Why is this happening?
The market for making generic intravenous or injectable sterile drugs, like those needed for chemotherapy, is broken and has been for more than a decade.
Manufacturing these drugs requires high quality standards to avoid contamination. This requires up-to-date equipment, strict safety protocols and accurate record keeping. But the profit margin for these drugs is unprofitable or so slim that many manufacturers have left the market and those that remain are unwilling or unable to invest in improved quality and reliability of these drugs.
This continual race to the bottom on pricing leads to drug shortages when quality issues are inevitably discovered, such as with recent shortages of platinum-based chemotherapy drugs that are considered mainstays of cancer care. In fact, these shortages could affect close to half a million U.S. cancer patients and have been the worst shortages in a decade.
We need to solve this crisis.
What should be done?
Congress is considering numerous bills aimed at addressing drug shortages.
Urgent action is needed to:
- Examine the economic factors that are driving generic manufacturers out of the market and consider stabilizing the market
- Incentivize U.S. production of critical medications
- Improve communication to health systems and providers
Tell your Member of Congress it’s time to end drug shortages. Patients and their doctors can’t wait.