Cancer patients across the nation are put at risk as the country experiences a record-high shortage of cancer treatment drugs.

“As of the end of March, about two dozen chemotherapy drugs were in active shortage, the fifth most of any drug category, according to data from the University of Utah Drug Information Service,” CNN said.

CNN reported the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working to import the cancer medication cisplatin from Chinese drugmaker Qilu Pharmaceutical.

The platinum-based drug “has a cure rate of over 90% when used to treat testicular cancer. It also treats bladder, cervical, ovarian, lung, gastric, breast, and head and neck cancers,” CNN stated.

Medicare to cover new Alzheimer’s drugs, if they get full FDA approval
Drug shortages in U.S. is currently hitting a 10-year high

The Deseret News has previously reported on the drug shortage and quoted Dr. Karen E. Knudsen, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society Action Network: “The shortage of certain cancer drugs has become a serious and life-threatening issue for cancer patients across the country.”

The New York Times reported Dr. Amanda Fader, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a president-elect of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, said the breadth of people affected and lack of chemotherapy agents available makes this a public health emergency.

Fader told CNN that in many cases where substitutions are required, “these drug substitutions are going to be as effective in terms of the response to the treatment. … However, many of these drugs may carry worse side-effect profiles or different dosing schedules that require two to three times longer to administer.”

Why is there a medication shortage?

USA Today said one reason for the chemotherapy drug shortage in America could be because of communication, or lack thereof.

“The hospitals don’t know when the manufacturers are running short and they don’t really know when the raw material suppliers are running short,” said USA Today health reporter Karen Weintraub. “So, nobody can prepare. And that’s one of the things that cancer advocates would like Congress to help them fix, to create a more open, more communicative supply chain system.”

Experts said that “the challenging economics of the market” make it so there aren’t many alternative sites to turn to when manufacturing delays and quality problems occur, per Axios.

Perspective: Drug overdose deaths are on the rise among teens

The Washington Post reported that the delay could have tragic effects on patients.

“One recent meta-analysis found that a four-week treatment delay can be associated with increased sickness or mortality for more than 40% of common cancers, including bladder, breast, colon and lung cancer,” the Post said.

Which chemotherapy drugs are in short supply?

Per NBC News last month, the FDA listed 14 different chemotherapy drug shortages, including:

  • Pluvicto, used to treat advanced prostate cancer.
  • Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, used to treat bladder cancer.
  • Methotrexate and cisplatin, two common chemotherapy drugs.

Dr. Lucio Gordan, a medical oncologist and president of Florida Cancer Specialists and Research Institute, a network of cancer clinics, told NBC News, “I’ve been doing this for 20-plus years. This is the worst I’ve ever seen.”