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Survey of Oncologists Reveals 98.9% of Physicians Experienced Cancer Drug Shortages in Last 12 Months
Date:11/15/2012

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
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SOURCE Community Oncology Alliance
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