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Cancer Patients Lose Care due to Drug Shortages

Update Date: Jun 03, 2013 01:52 PM EDT
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When people are diagnosed with any life altering diseases, receiving medical care and effective treatment is vital in combatting the disease. Although there are several treatment options for cancer, a new study found that patients and doctors sometimes have difficulty acquiring the drugs. This difficulty in getting drug treatments is not due to costs, but rather, due to drug shortages, which could drastically affect medical care and patients' recovery.

According to a survey that was presented in the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, IL, 83 percent of the 245 doctors that were interviewed reported a drug shortage that prevented them from treating their cancer patients effectively. 92 percent of these doctors stated that due to the shortage, patient care was negatively affected. According to the Food and Drug Administration, in 2011, there was a reported 251 drug shortages in the United States. In 2012, the number reduced to 121. However, in a February report by the University of Utah Drug Information Service, 2013 already has 320 drug shortages, a drastic increase from the years before.

The study also revealed other startling statistics. The researchers reported that 79 percent of the doctors were forced to switch chemotherapy agents, which meant that a less effective cancer drug was used as opposed to the more effective, but less accessible drug treatment. About 38 percent of the doctors had to switch from the generic brand to the high-end brand, which increased cancer drug costs significantly. 43 percent of the doctors were forced to delay cancer treatment while 29 percent of the doctors had to omit doses. 20 percent of the doctors chose to reduce the drug doses and 37 percent of the doctors ended up choosing which patients received the drugs and which ones would not. 17 percent of the doctors referred their patients to other doctors.

Poor medical treatment due to shortages results in higher rates of cancer relapses as well. In a St. Jude Children Research Hospital study, the researchers found that drug shortages lead to an increase in cancer relapsed. Due to drug shortages, the relapse rate fell from 88 to 75 percent. These findings suggest that drug companies, as well as doctors and medical professionals, need to find a better way of distributing drugs and using them for their patients.

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