Critical cancer drugs in short supply: patients at risk as shortage continues

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Two widely-used cancer drugs–carboplatin and cisplatin–continue to be in short supply, putting patients at risk. The FDA was first notified about the shortage of the two drugs back in February.

“Carboplatin and cisplatin belong to the same family of drugs,” said Jessina Mohl, a Pharmacist with Essentia Health. “Meaning they work in generally the same way. And they do cover a broad range of cancer types. Some of those cancer types are curable and some of them are not. So there’s not one [type of cancer] that we can point to, that is what these drugs are used for.”

Even though drug shortages happen, Mohl says that doesn’t make it any easier–or any less frustrating–for healthcare workers.

“I can give you my perspective as the pharmacist,” said Mohl. “It’s very challenging. It’s it’s nothing that we would ever have dreamed that we would be having to navigate. Drug shortages are a very real part of our lives. You know, it’s not the first time that that something like this has happened. Unfortunately. But it’s very frustrating. It takes a lot of effort, a lot of extra time and effort to make sure you have what you need to have for these patients.”

According to a report by PBS Newshour, 93%of cancer centers nationwide are experiencing a shortage of carboplatin, and 73% of centers are short on cisplatin.

“Because of this inability to manufacture product,” said Mohl. “And the shortage being mainly because of that, I think now is where people are seeing kind of the critical level that I talk about. Because now we’re running out of what we had on hand, and what we could get from our wholesaler. And so we’re really we’re really having to take it one day at a time, one patient at a time.”

To address supply issues, the FDA authorized the import of a limited amount of carboplatin by a Chinese pharmaceutical company on May 12th. Mohl says those imported drugs have reached Essentia’s wholesaler, and will be available to patients soon.