Doctors see a shortage of chemotherapy drugs - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Doctors see a shortage of chemotherapy drugs

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A nationwide chemotherapy drug shortage is keeping potentially life-saving medicine out of the hands of those who need it the most.

Officials said some drugs can be stockpiled, while others cannot. So doctors were forced to come up with alternative treatment plans for cancer patients while these popular drugs are in short supply. But why is this shortage happening?

Dr. Gary Walton and CEO at Clearview Cancer Institute in Huntsville said drug manufacturers have to meet strict Food and Drug Administration criteria in producing generic cancer drugs. By law, manufacturers have to halt production if they don't meet that criteria.

The regulatory hurdles have made it so it's not cost-effective to produce the drugs, and that is why drug manufacturers shy away from them.

Dr. Walton said manufacturers told the institute ahead of time to expect shortages so the staff prepared by stockpiling drugs when they were available.

Even though patients at Clearview have not been affected just yet, Dr. Walton said he's worried about the future if this continues.

"We're fine for now, where long-term, what's going to have to occur is that the regulations are going to have to be re-evaluated to make sure the companies will be giving incentives to continue to manufacture generic products," he said.

Dr. Walton said treatment centers can't stockpile drugs for certain types of cancer, for example ovarian. When new patients come in, they are treating them with other generic drugs that have produced similar clinical data.

He said CCI staff will continue to do this until those chemotherapy drugs become available.

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