Chemotherapy Drug Shortages Worsen With COVID-19


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Nathan Bahary, MD, PhD, discusses the ongoing challenge of chemotherapy drug shortages in the oncology field.

Nathan Bahary, MD, PhD, division chief of medical oncology and director of clinical cancer research at the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute, discusses the ongoing challenge of chemotherapy drug shortages in the oncology field.

Drug shortages are not a new concept, according to Bahary. However, it was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and now, necessary agents, including carboplatin and cisplatin, are currently short of supply.

At AHN, they have managed to get enough cisplatin to make the shortage less of an issue for patients and physicians. Still, other institutions across the country are not as lucky and continue to be impacted by these shortages.


0:10 | First of all, there have been drug shortages going on for years, this is not the first time we've had drug shortages. It's become a little bit more acute in the oncology world as a number of manufacturers, for generic drugs, such as cisplatin, have gone overseas. And what's happened then is that they don't have the same oversight from the FDA. So for cisplatin, we found out in India, there were production problems. But by this point that we found out there's production problems and the FDA halts the shipments, we're well into what's going to become a shortage.

0:51 | I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that most American Pharmaceutical companies are focusing on newer drugs and generics, and many of them are going overseas. There can be problems with distribution, during COVID it was clearly a problem, and that's only being worked out now. But then there's also issues with ensuring the potency and the equivalents of these drugs coming in from overseas when the FDA doesn't necessarily have oversight of them. We've also done this in order to make some money where people are doing it as a single manufacturer for a number of these drugs. If that line goes down, there's a problem.

1:39 | With cisplatin, which we alluded to when there was a shortage, the FDA helped us dramatically by allowing imports via Canada from China. I can speak to the Allegheny Health Network. Our Cancer Institute, at the moment, is doing well with cisplatin. We've managed to get enough from Canada to alleviate the shortages, but it's really distributor by distributor, so [we’ve] got to be careful. That's not necessarily true across the country, and we could have a shortage in the future that somebody else doesn't have a shortage of.

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