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Hospitals paying more for cancer drugs amid nationwide shortage

Cancer drug shortage
Posted at 6:57 AM, Aug 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-24 08:10:08-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The games continues to change in medicine as hospitals and cancer clinics continue to deal with a nationwide cancer drug shortage. That shortage has been impacting cancer patients since the original announcement earlier this June, including in the Coastal Bend.

Oncologists are paying nearly ten times more for some of the top lifesaving drugs as pharmaceutical companies hike their prices.

With more than a dozen cancer drugs at a limited supply, doctors are forced to find other ways to take care of their patients. At least one in three hospitals are impacted by the spiked prices. One of the most common cancer drugs, Carboplatin, usually goes for $29, but now the price tag is over $300.

Driscoll Children’s Hospital has been significantly impacted by the drug shortage, but Dr. Farha Sherani, a physician of pediatric oncology, says they’re finding other ways to stretch medications.

“For example, a little 2ML vial of Methotrexate but unfortunately they’re out. You can’t order them anymore. So we end up using a 40ML vial, which is available of Methotrexate. Unfortunately though, we end up wasting most of it because there’s only so many patients on one day that will need that drug," Sherani said.

Medical professionals say gray market vendors are to blame. They’re allegedly buying up all of the needed medications, then selling them at an escalated cost.

Dr. Sherani said when some of her patients need their treatments within a week of each other, she schedules their appointments together to conserve the meds they do have.

“Most of these cancer drugs do not have great alternatives," Sherani said, " It's not like it’s a banana, you can’t just be like, 'oh I want to have a banana today. Instead, I’ll have an apple. It’s still fruit', no, it doesn’t work that way. We’re very limited on the way that we can use to swap out drugs.”

But the biggest question that many people are wondering is, what's the solution for something like this?

Dr. Sherani said it's not just a one-direction shot. She believes it’s going to have to be that attempt is going to have to be multi-directional, on a political basis, on a pharmaceutical basis, on a health care companies.”

The reality is that some hospitals or clinics will have to be bear the extra costs on medications. However, the hope is that patients do not have to suffer in the meantime.

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