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Nationwide cancer drug shortage hits Western Pennsylvania hospitals

Nationwide chemotherapy drug shortage
Nationwide chemotherapy drug shortage 02:26

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Nearly all cancer centers are struggling with a nationwide chemotherapy drug shortage.

Inside Allegheny Health Network's Cancer Institute, people are fighting. But now doctors say one of the best weapons to beat certain cancers is in short supply. 

"We've known the shortage was coming since February," said Dr. Nathan Bahary, the chief of medical oncology at the institute.

Bahary said because of that, Allegheny Health Network is far from scrambling. But news of these shortages is sparking some tough conversations. 

"And I say your cancer is fine with this, we're going to be able to substitute, or don't worry, we're not substituting it," Bahary said. "We've put aside, we've put ahead. There is a supply for you in this curative situation and we are going to have your back."

These are the drugs in short supply: cisplatin, carboplatin, methotrexate and docetaxel. 

The shortage dates back to January when one of the largest plants in India ran into quality control problems with half the supply. It calls into question why can't we make the drugs here.

"Whether it's increasing reimbursements so the margins are greater, increasing production lines, even allowing the expiration dates to extend," said Dr. Stanley Marks, a UPMC hematologist and oncologist. 

The FDA is likely going to allow a shipment of drugs from China through Canada, but he says it is not enough. 

"Most of the large cancer centers around the country are concerned that if the supply dries up, unfortunately, there are patients with curable cancers that without this drug could potentially die," Marks said.

That's why he says this shortage is a wake-up call.  

Doctors say if you are concerned about how this shortage could impact you, first start with a conversation. Talk about your options instead of just having anxiety about the situation. 

And if you're concerned and not dealing with cancer, you can call your local lawmakers and ask them to put pressure on the FDA to make changes.

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