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4 Jun 2013

Oncologists struggling with chemotherapy drug shortages

Oncologists may omit vital chemotherapy doses when supplies are low.

More than eight-in-ten oncologists in the US have been affected by chemotherapy drug shortages, results of a new survey involving 500 board-certified physicians reveal.

University of Pennsylvania researchers presented their worrying findings at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting, exposing many problems with medicine supplies.

Over three-quarters of the healthcare professionals questioned said they had turned to an alternative regimen or made drug substitutions in light of shortages.

Oncologists are being forced to make difficult and ethically-challenging decisions when it comes to prescription, often having to choose which patients are more 'deserving' of certain drugs.

In instances when optimal chemotherapy medicines were scarce, 43 per cent of physicians have delayed administering treatment while 29 per cent omitted potentially crucial doses.

Senior author Dr Keerthi Gogineni said: "The potential impact of these drug shortages is vast: they're putting patients at risk and driving up costs of cancer care."

With the American Cancer Society predicating that 1.6 million cancer diagnoses will be made in the US in 2012, taking measures to combat chemotherapy drug shortages is crucial.

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