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Survey of Oncologists Reveals 98.9% of Physicians Experienced Cancer Drug Shortages in Last 12 Months

WASHINGTON, Nov.15, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The Community Oncology Alliance (COA), a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and fostering community cancer care, announced the results of a drug shortage survey of 200 member practices representing 525 physicians across the United States.  98.9% of the respondents reported experiencing a drug shortage in the last year.   Survey participants indicated that the cancer progressed more quickly in more than 60 percent of patients as a result of the drug shortages, and more than 70 percent of patients had more severe side effects as a result of drug shortages.  

Almost half of those surveyed reported seeing more than one patient per day affected by a drug shortage and 58.2% indicate the shortage in cancer care drugs is increasing.  Over 80% of the patients and over 90% of the practices affected by a cancer drug shortage also experienced a more severe financial burden.

"The root cause of the drug shortage is economic," said Ted Okon, executive director of COA.  "The Medicare system for reimbursing for cancer drugs has created pricing instability.   That has resulted in disincentives for manufactures to produce these low-cost but vital generic cancer drugs, as well as to invest in manufacturing facilities for these products."

In addition to issues of optimal treatment, drug substitutions made because of a shortage often result in patients facing significantly higher costs.  

"When treating ovarian cancer, a commonly used drug is leucovorin.  The cost to Medicare is $35 per dose; the patient co-payment is $9.  But leucovrin is a generic drug and in short supply," says Dr. Patrick Cobb, an oncologist at the Frontier Cancer Centers and Blood Institute, Billings, Montana, and COA past president.  "The substitute is a branded drug that is readily available.  The cost to Medicare for a dose of the branded drug is $2,000 and the cost to the patient is $520.  This is an unacceptable consequence of the drug shortage crisis."

The complete survey results and comments from respondents are available at

About Community Oncology Alliance (COA)
Formed in 2003 by community oncologists, COA is a non-profit organization dedicated solely to community oncology, where four out of five Americans with cancer are treated.   COA has mobilized community oncology to become more politically active, and increased awareness on Capitol Hill about the community cancer care delivery system. Additionally, COA has brought together community oncology practices from across the country to share information in order to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the cancer care they provide to their patients. COA also has a multi-stakeholder group involved with the implementation of the Oncology Medical Home, a cancer care model that fosters quality and value in cancer care. More information can be found at                                                      

SOURCE Community Oncology Alliance
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