Lawmakers urge FDA to address adverse effects of drug shortages on cancer patients

June 13, 2023

Faced with a national shortage of more than a dozen cancer medications, California Congressman Ami Bera, M.D., led a bipartisan group of 66 Members of Congress in writing a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf expressing concern with the detrimental impact of drug shortages on individuals battling cancer.

Out of the 136 drugs currently in shortage, as reported by the FDA, 15 of them are oncology medications that are widely used in the treatment of common cancers, including lung, breast, ovarian, testicular, head and neck cancer, endometrial cancer, and many types of cancers impacting children.

“Patients, physicians, and pharmacists are often the last to know when an essential drug will no longer be available, yet, are affected by these shortages the most,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “We strive to ensure patients, physicians, and pharmacists never have to experience shortages of essential medications, but when shortages do occur it is vital that these individuals are made aware as quickly as possible so that they can better prepare.”

The consequences of these drug shortages are particularly dire, affecting both adult and pediatric patients. Many community cancer centers are now unable to provide necessary treatments due to the scarcity of cancer drugs and large academic cancer centers have reported having less than a two-week supply of these vital medications on hand.

The lawmakers are urging the Administration to take immediate action to mitigate the effects of these shortages.

“We appreciate the actions FDA has already taken to address the ongoing cancer drug shortage and encourage you to take all appropriate steps to protect this vulnerable population,” the letter said. “We stand ready to assist you in any way possible.”

Click here for the full letter.


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