An ongoing shortage of the cancer treatment drugs carboplatin and cisplatin is forcing American doctors to delay or modify treatment plans – or in some cases, try alternative medications altogether.
The head of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) is calling the matter an “unacceptable situation.”
“We are hearing from oncologists and pharmacists across the country who have to scramble to find appropriate alternatives for treating their patients with cancer right now,” NCCN CEO Robert Carlson said in a statement.
“We were relieved by survey results that show patients are still able to get life-saving care, but it comes at a burden to our overtaxed medical facilities,” he added. “We need to work together to improve the current situation and prevent it from happening again in the future.”
The organization described carboplatin and cisplatin as “platinum-based chemotherapies that are frequently used together for systemic treatment, often with the intent to cure.
“They have been proven to be highly effective across a variety of cancer types, including lung, breast, and prostate cancers, as well as many leukemias and lymphomas,” it also said. “They are estimated to be used in the treatment of as many as 500,000 new cancer patients per year.”
Dr. Kari Wisinski, a breast cancer specialist with the UW Health Carbone Cancer Center in Madison, Wisconsin, which is part of the NCCN, told the AP that she has had to turn to other treatments for certain patients or switch the order in which people receive their drug combinations.
“It’s really difficult as a physician to have these conversations with a family or a patient about not having a medication you’d like to prescribe to them.”
The NCCN says both drugs can be used to treat various types of cancers, such as prostate cancer. (iStock)