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Position Paper Addresses Shortages of Chemotherapy and Supportive Care Agents for Pediatric Oncology Patients

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Shortages of essential chemotherapy drugs for children undergoing cancer treatment have been an increasingly frequent obstacle for patients and hospitals in the United States. These shortages can result in increased medication errors, delayed administration of life-saving therapy, inferior outcomes, and patient deaths. In a new position paper by Unguru et al in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers address this issue and call for the development of an essential medicines list for this group of patients to help ensure reliable access and forecast future shortages.

“All children, including those undergoing treatment for cancer, have a fundamental right to health care, and these drug shortages compromise that right,” said senior author Stacey L. Berg, MD, Professor of Pediatrics–Hematology and Oncology at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. “Essential medicines lists are used in other countries, but one has yet to be established for the United States, which could help alleviate this economic and health-care burden domestically.”

In addition to compiling a list of essential drugs—viewable in Tables 1 and 2 in the JAMA Pediatrics article—the authors also provide recommendations on what to do when there are shortages, as well as how to forecast need in the future.

“We need a more active planning process,” said Dr. Berg, who is also Associate Dean for Research Assurances and a member of the Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor. “These medicines should be considered critical infrastructure in health care, and this approach has implications beyond pediatric oncology; children with other serious diseases should have access to evidence-based medicines that are deemed essential to preserve life and function.”

Many of these agents are relatively inexpensive and are often generic, Dr. Berg explained. “We hope this list will help educate families that their children are potentially at risk and galvanize the public to pressure for legislative change and increased involvement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in preventing and managing shortages of essential cancer medicines.”

Disclosure: The study authors' full disclosures can be found at jamanetwork.com.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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