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Most Oncologists Experience Chemotherapy Drug Shortages

Most Oncologists Experience Chemotherapy Drug Shortages

More than 80 percent report being unable to prescribe preferred drug at least once in past six months

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 18, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- More than 80 percent of oncologists report being unable to prescribe their preferred chemotherapy agent due to shortages, according to a letter to the editor published in the Dec. 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Keerthi Gogineni, M.D., from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues collected empirical data to quantify the scope of chemotherapy shortages. Two hundred fourteen randomly selected oncologists who routinely prescribe chemotherapy agents were surveyed from September 2012 through March 2013 regarding the frequency and type of chemotherapy shortages that they had encountered.

The researchers found that, because of shortages, 82.7 percent of physicians were unable to prescribe the preferred chemotherapy agent at least once during the previous six months. The most commonly reported shortages involved leucovorin, liposomal doxorubicin, fluorouracil, bleomycin, and cytarabine (reported by 66.4, 61.7, 18.7, 17.3, and 16.4 percent of oncologists, respectively). More than three-quarters of oncologists reported that shortages triggered a major change in treatment, which may have been less effective. More than one-third of oncologists reported having to delay the start of treatment or choose patients to exclude from treatment. Most oncologists (59.2 percent) who experienced shortages reported substituting a more expensive brand-name drug for a generic chemotherapy agent, increasing the cost of treatment.

"The majority of oncologists face chemotherapy shortages that compromise the delivery of standard cancer care and lead to higher costs," the authors write.

Full Text (subscription or payment may be required) (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1307379 )