Cancer drug shortage leaves doctors with difficult decisions to make

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Ivanhoe Newswire) – More than 200 drugs are now facing a critical nationwide shortage, including penicillin and amoxicillin, two widely used antibiotics.

But the shortages that are proving to be the most devastating are those used to treat cancers.

Right now, there are 14 life-saving cancer drugs facing shortages. But three of these drugs could mean the difference between life and death, leaving doctors with some very difficult decisions to make.

Methotrexate, cisplatin, and carboplatin are more than just the go-to drugs for a number of different cancers. For thousands of patients, they are the hope for a cure. But more than 90% of cancer centers in the U.S. have reported critical shortages of these drugs, and some have already run out.

“Cancer patients have a lot on their minds. The last thing that they should need to worry about is can they get the medication they need,” said Makala Pace, pharmacy director at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Doctors are resorting to lowering doses to ration the drugs, or switching patients to a different drug with more severe side effects. Some doctors will have to decide which patients to prioritize, such as those still in the early stages of the disease and who have the highest chance of survival.

“We always encourage patients to advocate for themselves. Specifically, I hear, ‘My medication is on shortage. Am I gonna be able to get it?’” Pace said.

Patients are also encouraged to regularly check the drug shortage database on If one of their medications is getting critically low, the sooner they and their doctor can come up with an alternative treatment plan, the better.

One of the main reasons for the shortage has to do with a factory in India failing an FDA inspection. That factory made 50% of those cancer drugs and there’s no word on when they’ll be up and running again. For a short term solution, the FDA is allowing some chemotherapy drugs to be temporarily imported from China.