WSJ: They got cancer, and then their drugs were rationed

University of Cincinnati Cancer Center physician discusses chemotherapy shortage

Across the U.S., a monthslong shortage of critical chemotherapies have forced doctors and pharmacists to stretch their supplies, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal

Some patients have received less treatment or lengthened the time between treatments, while others have had to turn to second-line options. 

The chemotherapies in shortage are cheap, generic drugs that don’t make much profit —and few companies want to manufacture them. After the Food and Drug Administration found quality problems late last year at a major manufacturing facility in India, the company halted its production of two of these drugs, cisplatin and carboplatin, sparking the scarcity. 

These (drugs) are the backbones of treatment for many of these cancers, and it is frustrating that this is where we are.

Davendra Sohal University of Cincinnati Cancer Center

At least two dozen patients at the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center have had their treatment disrupted, said Davendra Sohal, MD, an oncologist who treats gastrointestinal cancer patients; he is associate director of clinical research at the Cancer Center. Those already in clinical trials or who can be cured take priority when rationing the drugs, he said, followed by those with progressing disease.

Some patients who are dealing with more stable, chronic disease have had to miss a dose in order to manage the supply, he added. A patient who travels weekly from West Virginia for treatment made the trip last month to find out that there wasn’t any drug, Sohal said. A few weeks ago, only half of the colorectal cancer patients could get their scheduled dose. 

“The other half we called and said sorry, not this week,” Sohal said. “These are the backbones of treatment for many of these cancers, and it is frustrating that this is where we are.”

Read the full Wall Street Journal story.

Learn more about the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center

Featured image at top of Davendra Sohal. Photo credit/UC Health

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