If you do not believe that the U.S. health care “system” (a misnomer if there ever was one) is not broken, look no further than the latest crisis — a shortage of chemotherapy drugs. Because I am focusing on bladder cancer lately, I will just post a few things about the shortage of a critical drug used to treat that.
NOTE: we have not personally experienced this shortage as my mother is on another therapy regimen. However, there are countless cancer patients out there who have had their therapy cancelled or postponed due to this shortage.
According to a recent report, 90 percent of U.S. oncologists have reported shortages of key chemotherapy drugs in their practice. Larger institutions are having to implement pain-staking triage and prioritizing of who gets drugs — only people who are getting drugs intended toward cure (vs. palliative treatments meant just to delay progression) will receive these limited doses. That means if you have metastatic bladder cancer, you can just go home.
One of the key therapies for bladder cancer is called BCG, produced by Sanofi. (My mother is on carboplatin + gemcitabin). There is also a vaccine called BCG (is that the same thing?) used in third world countries to prevent TB in children. Lobbying groups are putting serious pressure on the FDA and other federal agencies to address this urgent issue.
Politicians are trying to get into the act and legislating this issue, but we’ll see if anything comes of it.
The party line is that the manufacture and distribution of drugs is a complex matter and it’s impossible to point the figure at any one cause of these shortages. But working in the health care field I have to say that if the drugs were PROFITABLE, I doubt you’d see such shortages. We haven’t heard of any shortages of VIAGRA or LIPITOR (before the patent was lost and is now available as a generic).
While it’s true that drug shortages have been cut in half thanks to legislation signed by the Obama administration, it seems a national (international) travesty that there are shortages at all.
There are CHILDREN WITH LEUKEMIA who are just twiddling their fingers at home, while their parents agonize, because a key drug is not available.
How does this happen??
I am not a conspiracy theorist, but it’s hard to believe there is not an economic issue here.
Again, we are not personally affected by this but I am incredibly frustrated on behalf of others who are fighting cancer and simply can not get the drugs they need to extend life.