Nation's Leading Cancer Centers Report Persistent Shortages of Critical Chemotherapy Drugs


Many of the United States' premier cancer centers continue to grapple with a critical shortage of essential chemotherapy drugs, according to recent findings.

A survey conducted by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, encompassing 29 cancer centers across the nation, revealed that 72% reported a scarcity of the chemotherapy drug carboplatin, while 59% are still contending with a shortage of the drug cisplatin. These drugs are typically used in combination to treat various forms of cancer.

In total, a substantial 86% of the surveyed centers reported a shortage of at least one type of anti-cancer drug.

This survey, conducted from September 6 to 20 among 29 of the network’s 33 institutions, provides an update to a previous survey in May, which found that 93% of cancer centers reported a shortage of carboplatin and 70% reported similar shortages of cisplatin.

Cisplatin and other platinum-based drugs are prescribed for an estimated 10% to 20% of all cancer patients, as per the National Cancer Institute.

Several cancer medications have faced intermittent shortages for years, with this year witnessing record shortages, according to the American Association for Cancer Research. In September, the White House stated that the nation is experiencing a shortage of 15 cancer drugs due to manufacturing and supply chain issues. Three of these drugs - cisplatin, carboplatin, and methotrexate - are widely used generics that have been fundamental in cancer treatment for decades.

Dr. Robert Carlson, CEO of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, emphasized, "Everyone with cancer should have access to the best possible treatment according to the latest evidence and expert consensus guidelines."

Despite the ability of most surveyed centers to treat patients needing carboplatin or cisplatin despite the lowered supply, questions remain about how to prevent such shortfalls in the future. Dr. William Dahut, Chief Scientific Officer for the American Cancer Society, noted the crucial role of the manufacturing process in addressing this issue.

The survey also revealed that several other vital cancer medications are in short supply, including a 66% shortage of chemotherapy methotrexate, 55% for chemotherapy 5-fluorouracil, 45% for chemotherapy fludarabine, and 41% for the corticosteroid medicine hydrocortisone.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network acknowledges that comprehensive solutions will require time, but stresses the need for urgent action to address the ongoing crisis.

The surveyed cancer centers, which include leading academic institutions, may not fully represent the challenges faced by smaller practices, especially those in rural or under-resourced communities.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network is a non-profit coalition of cancer centers in the United States, including esteemed institutions such as the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.