Chemo Drug Taxol Shortage Puts Cancer Patients at Risk

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Some Big Medical Centers Managing for Now

Three other large, academic medical centers reported being aware of the paclitaxel shortage but managing to mitigate any effect on cancer patients. Dr. Julian Schink, chief of gynecologic oncology at Northwestern University in Chicago, where ovarian cancer patients receive paclitaxel plus either carboplatin or cisplatin, said his pharmacy "pro-actively identified this issue and stocked up" on Teva's paclitaxel.

Dr. James Speyer, medical director of the NYU Clinical Cancer Center, said NYU worked with several suppliers "so that we have not had to delay treatment of patients." And pharmacist Anita A. Garcia, interim director of investigational drugs at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio, said the center's distributors "are rationing the use of the drug."

Burgeoning drug shortages in the past decade, particularly among injectable generics, suggest that the U.S. pharmaceutical business is operating under "an economic model that apparently is no longer tenable," said Dr. Neal J. Meropol, chief of hematology and oncology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland.

He suggested the system might need to change if producers cannot make adequate profits on low-cost generic drugs "to make it worthwhile to continue producing them with a high degree of reliability."

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