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Michigan hospitals respond to shortage of chemotherapy drugs

Michigan hospitals respond to shortage of chemotherapy drugs
Michigan hospitals respond to shortage of chemotherapy drugs 01:58

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) – A pair of cancer treatments are in short supply, joining a growing list of drug shortages in the United States. 

According to the former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, there are about 300 drugs that are currently hard to find, the highest level since 2014.

In recent months some oncologists have been scrambling to find Cisplatin and Carboplatin, used to treat a variety of cancers.

"The physicians and pharmacists in our hospitals have expressed uniformly their degree of concern for the patients and what this means for them," Laura Appel, executive vice president at the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, told CBS News Detroit on Tuesday.

The FDA first learned of a shortage of Cisplatin in February, then Carboplatin in late April.

"It was basically one large manufacturer in India that was taken offline because it had a disastrous FDA inspection with significant findings. There are only five manufacturers in the market for those drugs. This was one of the largest manufacturers," Dr. Gottlieb said on Face The Nation on Sunday.

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In response, some hospitals are turning to different treatment methods, including using alternatives or making their own thru compounding pharmacies.

"If a drug could be used on a cycle of three to four weeks, they might be using that four-week cycle. If there are the older drugs available, they might be turning to the older drug because they don't want to pause in the care," Appel said.

These drug shortages are part of a bigger problem that's been happening for years, even before the pandemic. 

"We have a number of problems to work through in terms of returning to domestic manufacturing, awareness of where and how much of the active ingredients we have for these drugs," Appel said.

Dr. Gottlieb believes the economic model for generic drugs needs to be revamped.

"I think we really need to create a market for high-quality manufacturing. So you can allow generic manufacturers to make certain claims about the reliability and the quality of the manufacturing. And then for generic manufacturers that can make those claims through maybe some third party certification, you pay them for that you pay them for the fact that they have reliable manufacturing that might be domestic, that might be more modern, so it's going to be more reliable and less prone to shortages," Dr. Gottlieb said.

The shortage of the two chemotherapy drugs is expected to last into late June.

"Like other health care organizations across the country, we are experiencing a critical shortage of commonly used chemotherapy drugs. We recognize the importance of these drugs for our patients and their loved ones and are working diligently to source these medications to meet our patients' needs," Corewell Health said in a statement. 

The Karmanos Cancer Institute also provided a statement to CBS News Detroit:

"The shortage of these commonly used chemotherapy drugs is an industry-wide issue affecting every cancer provider. Karmanos is fortunate that we have received these critical medications, and we are able to care for our patients. Karmanos pharmacists and Multidisciplinary Teams of oncologists will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with our suppliers to obtain these medications. Processes are in place, however, should we experience any temporary medication shortages to ensure patients needing these medications receive their treatments."

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