NCCN Survey Reveals Ongoing Cancer Drug Shortages Despite Improvements

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

PLYMOUTH MEETING, PA — The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) has released new survey results highlighting persistent drug shortages in cancer treatment across the United States. While the availability of key chemotherapy drugs like carboplatin and cisplatin has improved since last year, significant challenges remain.

Previous surveys indicated dire shortages, with up to 93% of centers experiencing a lack of carboplatin and 70% lacking cisplatin as recently as June 2023. The latest results show a significant improvement, with only 11% of centers reporting shortages of carboplatin and 7% for cisplatin. However, new concerns have surfaced.

“Critical drug shortages were not a new problem last year and they continue to be a problem now,” said Dr. Crystal S. Denlinger, Chief Executive Officer of NCCN. “Despite renewed attention to drug shortages over the past year, 89% of the responding centers in the latest survey are still reporting shortages of various important anti-cancer agents and supportive care medications.”

The survey, conducted from May 28 through June 11, 2024, involved 28 cancer centers. It found that 57% reported a shortage of vinblastine, 46% for etoposide, and 43% for topotecan. Additional shortages were noted for dacarbazine, 5-fluorouracil, and methotrexate, among others. These drugs are essential for multi-agent regimens used in both curative and palliative care.

Drug shortages are also affecting clinical trials at 43% of the surveyed centers by complicating budgets, enrollment, and administrative tasks. Moreover, 27% experienced treatment delays due to necessary changes requiring additional prior authorization. Centers are employing various strategies to mitigate these impacts, including waste reduction and adjusting timing and dosage within safe ranges.

“The current situation underscores the need for sustainable, long-term solutions that ensure a stable supply of high-quality cancer medications,” said Alyssa Schatz, MSW, Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy at NCCN. “The federal government has a key role to play in addressing this issue. Establishing economic incentives, such as tax breaks or manufacturing grants for generic drugmakers, will help support a robust and resilient supply chain.”

Respondents highlighted the need for economic incentives, with 75% advocating for measures to promote high-quality manufacturing of medications, particularly generics. Additionally, 64% expressed the need for a broader buffer stock payment and more information on supplier user experiences.

The survey results reflect an urgent call for policy interventions to stabilize the supply of critical cancer treatments, safeguarding patient care and advancing medical research.

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