A Shortage of Generic Drugs Is Causing Distress Among Doctors And Patients.
By: Alicia Chen
Cisplatin and carboplatin are two generic drugs essential to treating cancer. But now, the U.S. is facing a shortage of the two drugs, and doctors are forced to ration the amount given to patients, possibly causing many preventable deaths.
The disadvantages of the generic drug industry are to blame for this shortage. Manufacturers overseas often make little to no profit from making these drugs, which leads to them being more interested in producing more expensive, high-end drugs.
In the past, the generic drug industry lost money from around a third of the items it produced, but the percentage has recently risen to almost half.
Hospitals often pay tens of thousands of dollars annually to buy branded cancer drugs.
Doctors are struggling to acquire cancer medication in order to treat their patients, and Dr. Stephen Divers, an oncologist, is no different. He stated, “It’s just a travesty that this is the level of healthcare in the United States of America right now.”
He mentions that he has had to change and delay treatment plans for patients with several different types of cancer because of this problem.
This issue has always existed but has worsened recently because of production problems still lingering from Covid-19. Health workers are infuriated that the FDA is not shedding more light on this issue. Oncologist Dr. Bonny Moore said, “All day, in between patients, we hold staff meetings trying to figure this out. It’s the most nauseous I’ve ever felt. Our office stayed open during COVID; we never had to stop treating patients. We got them
vaccinated, kept them safe, and now I can’t get them a $10 drug.”
Cancer doctor and pharmacist Dr. Mark Ratain describes the current situation by referencing a scenario in which “Your roof is caving in, but you want to build a basketball court in the backyard because your wife is pregnant with twin boys and you want them to be NBA stars when they grow up?”
For the time being, doctors must prioritize treatment on patients in the earlier stages of cancer and have a chance to be cured, as in more severe cases, treatment will only stall the spread of cancer. But, despite their efforts to limit the usage of the drugs, some doctors are cutting the amount of treatment on curable patients.
Alarmingly, cancer drugs aren’t the only ones experiencing a shortage. The FDA declared 137 drugs to be in deficit as of June 13.
The government is trying desperately to improve this situation, but progress has been extremely slow.
Allan Coukell, the senior vice president for Civica RX, stated that, “At a certain point the system needs to recognize that there's a high cost to low-cost drugs.”