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Cancer Patients Affected by Drug Shortages

As someone who is relatively healthy, I don’t really think about certain medications not being available to me if there is a need. I walk down the aisles of Target and see thousands of little boxes holding multi-colored pills ready to cure my every illness. I also just assume that if I get admitted into a hospital, a nurse will deliver via a little white paper cup a pill to ease my pain or to deliver antibiotics. However, I read an article that certain cancer patients are being affected by the lack of availability of specific medications. For pharmacy technician students, these issues are important to consider.

Jeremy Goldmeier writes on reporternews.com that there is a shortage of medications for ovarian cancer patients. “Ovarian cancer, in particular, is one of the five most deadly cancers in women. And more troubling than anything else, Dr. Mark Reedy [gynecological oncologist] says he and his fellow practitioners don’t have the drugs they need to treat patients.

“The drugs Doxil and Taxol are two of the go-to treatments in Reedy’s arsenal. They’re among about 20 drugs used in cancer and chemotherapy treatment that are now in perilously short supply in the United States… The shortage is forcing oncologists like Reedy to make decisions they should never have to make with regards to patient care,” explains Goldmeier.

“‘When patients recur, and they often do, Doxil’s one of the first drugs we go to,’ said Reedy, who has practiced in Abilene for 12 years. ‘We can no longer give patients the same standard of care. … So we have to get creative. The drugs we’re using aren’t the ones we’re supposed to be using.'”

What frightens in me is that drug shortages are becoming more prevalent. In June, the FDA listed 246 medications that were in short supply. Another issue is that there are not generic back-ups or alternative medications available for these conditions. One good thing Goldmeier explains is that “There are currently two bills — one in the U.S. Senate, one in the House of Representatives — that would mandate pharmaceutical companies alerting the FDA ahead of time when drugs run short.”

There are several reasons for these drug shortages such as lack of profitability, consolidation of the drug industry, limited raw materials and manufacturing issues. The government also does not regulate how much or what kinds of medications should be or need to be produced.

As a student getting pharmaceutical technician training, these are some tough issues to face. I think it’s important to help the people you can and do your best to advocate for those in need.

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3 replies
  1. Kelvin
    Kelvin says:

    Right Christina. I must say that you have pointed out the fact that there is a shortage of drugs used for cancer treatment. And i think that it is the responsibility of every pharmacy student to produce such drugs and also government should also also be aware of these kind of issues.

    • Christina
      Christina says:

      Thanks, Kelvin. It’s a shame that people have to suffer when there’s a known medication that could help their situation.

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