Oklahoma Doctors Worry About Cancer Drug Shortage

Monday, August 29th 2011, 5:14 pm
By: News 9

Jennifer Pierce, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A national drug shortage is hitting Oklahoma. Life saving cancer medication is in short supply, and this has local doctors worried.

Doctors are having to make do. They're saving the medicine for cancer patients who need it the most. And in some cases, they're substituting the drugs that are in critical shortage.

"We don't like to do that," said Dr. Patrick Medina with the Oklahoma Cancer Center. "We like patients to stay on the same drug that the doctors want them on."

At the Oklahoma Cancer Center, pharmacists mix cancer medicine on site. The IV's are delivered to nurses for chemotherapy patients.

But doctors say keeping these vials in stock is a challenge.

"We're constantly trying to figure out where we're getting drugs from. How much we have in supply, and what patients are going to get it," Dr. Medina said.

Paclitaxel, the most popular drug used for lung and breast cancer, is the hardest to find.

"It's mainly because of problems at the manufacturing sites. They found bacteria and other things within the cancer drugs that are not safe to patients and have had to shut down a lot of plants," Dr. Medina said.

Dr. Medina says the Oklahoma Cancer Center has enough medicine to get them through September. That's when the manufacturer is supposed to release more. But even that is a dangerous waiting game.

"The last thing we want to do is tell a patient we can't give you the drug that's prescribed by physician that he thinks is best for you,"Dr. Medina said.

Dr. Medina says the medicine is actually very inexpensive, but because of the lack of drugs, prices have risen as much as 10 to 20 percent.

News 9 was told that Congress is now looking into solutions to ease the shortage.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a website that lists all the drugs in short supply, click here to see the complete list.