By: Jeffrey Wu
Doctors in hospitals across the country are unable to obtain sufficient generic medicines for cancer patients. Rations of these cancer-treating drugs, notably cisplatin and carboplatin, may result in preventable deaths.
Cancer drugs, ADHD pills, blood thinners, and antibiotics are all in limited supply. COVID-19 and limited FDA regulation are certainly factors in drug shortages, but experts believe the problem is with the generic drug industry.
Patients are becoming less inclined to pay more for their medications, and with the distribution of generic drugs, prices fall. The production of generic drugs is only marginally profitable, if profitable at all. Thus, Akron Pharmaceuticals, which manufactured 75 different types of generic drugs, filed for bankruptcy in May 2020.
Intas Pharmaceuticals, which produces more than half of the cisplatin market in the United States, voluntarily closed its Ahmedabad factory in December 2022. Accord Healthcare, an Intas subsidiary, stated that it had no plans to restart it.
Prices for carboplatin, cisplatin, and other medications have risen dramatically. A 600-milligram bottle of carboplatin, which usually costs $30, was selling for $185 in early May and $345 a week later, according to Moore's clinic pharmacist Richard Scanlon.
A month earlier, a study indicated an insufficient supply of carboplatin and cisplatin – carboplatin was only present at 93% of academic cancer centers and cisplatin was only represented at 70%. As a result, the amount of carboplatin and cisplatin given to patients has been rationed. Some hospitals have also prioritized patients in the early stages of cancer to potentially cure them, as the drugs will merely slow cancer down in later stages.
“All day, in between patients, we hold staff meetings trying to figure this out,” Dr. Bonny Moore, an oncologist in Fredericksburg, Virginia, said. “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.”