Cancer patients may be stunned to learn that there is a major problem with the drugs that could save their lives and San Diego's cancer clinics are being impacted.
Doctors and pharmacists say a shortage of chemotherapy drugs is a product of greed from drug manufacturers. Unfortunately it’s not a new problem and it has slowly worsened over the last several years.
Imagine being a chemotherapy patient, only to learn the drug that can save your life is in short supply.
”It's frightening and if you think that happens with one drug, is that going to happen with other drugs? I still have two months to go and maybe additional chemo is down the road, so it's concerning,” said Kathy Winn.
Winn is being treated for inflammatory breast cancer, which is an aggressive form of cancer with a 40-percent, five-year survival rate. Two of the drugs Winn has used are on the list of those in short supply.
She’s being treated at Kaiser, which like all of the hospitals NBC San Diego checked with on Thursday, say they're aware of the shortages, but are not at the point of running out.
Several say drugs like Doxorubicin and Leucovorin have, at times, been in short supply but are not yet out of stock. Still, this is very frustrating for doctors who say the problem is being caused by declining profit margins for manufacturers.
“The drugs that are in short supply are all the ones that have been around for quite some time and there isn't a big profit to be made, so the number of manufacturers is decreasing for those important drugs,” said Kaiser Senior Oncologist Dr. Jonathan Polikoff.
Doctors are staying in close contact with their pharmacies to make sure the drugs they need are on hand.
So how do you fix the problem?
Polikoff says it's a problem that must be addressed by the FDA and it's on their radar screen. He says it’s hard to say what the solution is but that the manufacturers are clearly going to have to get involved.
Ultimately, they could raise the prices on all of the drugs in short supply.