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Yes, there are shortages of chemotherapy drugs

More than a dozen drugs used to treat cancer are currently in short supply. That includes some used in chemotherapy treatments.
Credit: Bernard Chantal - stock.adobe.co

Shortages of drugs from Adderall, which is commonly used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), to the type-2 diabetes drug Ozempic have impacted patients throughout the U.S. over the past year. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and drug companies have linked some of the shortages to supply chain issues coupled with increased demand for the drugs. 

Now some people, including VERIFY reader Deb, are wondering if the drug shortages are extending to those used for chemotherapy.


Are there shortages of chemotherapy drugs?



This is true.

Yes, there are shortages of chemotherapy drugs. 


More than a dozen oncology drugs used to treat cancer are currently in short supply, according to the FDA drug shortages database and the American Cancer Society (ACS). That includes some drugs used in chemotherapy treatments.

Chemotherapy drugs were in the top five drug categories affected by shortages through the end of March 2023, according to data compiled by the University of Utah Drug Information Service

The ACS attributed the chemotherapy drug shortages to “expanded demand, supply shortages, limited manufacturing capacity and low profit margins for generic therapies,” among other factors. 

Some of the drugs impacted by the shortages do not have effective alternatives, the ACS added. 

“As first-line treatments for a number of cancers, including triple-negative breast cancer, ovarian cancer and leukemia often experienced by pediatric cancer patients, the shortage could lead to delays in treatment that could result in worse outcomes,” ACS Cancer Action Network (CAN) CEO Karen E. Knudsen said. 

The Michigan Health and Hospital Association (MHA) said hospitals and health systems in the state have been forced to find alternative treatments for patients amid nationwide shortages of “two critical chemotherapy medications” – cisplatin and carboplatin. Both of these drugs are provided as injections to cancer patients.

Cisplatin can be used to treat testicular, lung, bladder, cervical and ovarian cancers. Carboplatin is used alongside other chemotherapy as a first-line treatment for advanced ovarian cancer. 

Cisplatin was first added to the FDA drug shortage database on Feb. 10, 2023. The carboplatin shortage is more recent and was first posted on April 28. 

Injectable methotrexate has also been in short supply since March 2023. The drug is used to treat inflammatory conditions like arthritis and psoriasis, along with certain types of cancer.   

Shortages of chemotherapy drugs are not a new phenomenon. A survey of 214 oncologists published in the New England Journal of Medicine in December 2013 found that nearly 83% of them were unable to prescribe their preferred chemotherapy drug due to shortages at least once during the previous six months. 

Knudsen said ACS CAN is “urging Congress to look at longer-term solutions that change the fundamental underpinnings of the shortages.”

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