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Cancer Patients Can’t Get Medicine As Drugmakers Drop Cheap Generics

By: Grace Liu

Recently, U.S. cancer patients cannot get medications because drugmakers have stopped producing as many cheap drugs that can treat cancer.

Cheap drugs such as cisplatin and carboplatin are used to treat cancer patients' cases. These drugs can treat over 500,000 new cancer cases each year. However, cisplatin and carboplatin cisplatin and carboplatin are one two of the many medications that are in shortage due to the pandemic, and the weakness of the generic drug industry. These crucial drugs are usually sold for little profit, or a loss, for medication manufacturing companies. So, drugmakers have very little interest in making these important, cheaper drugs, and would rather produce high-priced medications.

A survey of academic cancer centers in June showed that 93 percent of centers could not find enough carboplatin, and 70 percent had cisplatin shortages. At a center in Virginia, clinicians had to give 60 percent of the optimal dose of carboplatin to cancer patients, and then they moved up to 80 percent of the optimal dose after a small shipment came in, and the dosage has remained at 80 percent.

The shortages are due to people wanting to pay less, and drug producers’ are driving down wholesale prices. Many businesses that make these drugs are also closing, focusing on higher-priced drugs, or going bankrupt. Some businesses that stopped producing cisplatin and carboplatin include Akorn, Teva, Lannett Co., and others [businesses is used earlier in the same sentence].

Also, the FDA does not inspect or regulate many drug sites in the U.S. In 2022, the FDA reportedly only inspected 3 percent of sites that make drugs for the U.S.A. In addition, a quarter of all U.S. drug prescriptions are filled by a company that received a FDA warning letter in the past 26 months.

Prices for these drugs have greatly increased in the past few years. A normal 600-milligram bottle of carboplatin, normally costing around $30, was going for $185 in early May, and $345 a week later.

“It’s hard to have these conversations with patients – ‘I have your dose for this cycle, but not sure about next cycle’” said Dr. Mark Einstein, chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Health at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

With these prices and shortages, cancer patients may have to switch to other, less efficient drugs, or take smaller doses of cisplatin and carboplatin.

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