Oncology Community Briefs Members of Congress and Calls for Action

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ASCO in ActionASCO and seven other oncology organizations held a Capitol Hill briefing in July and explained to nearly 200 members of Congress and their staffs how widespread cancer drug shortages are creating “a crisis in care.”

According to the University of Utah Drug Information Service, the number of drug shortages has tripled between January 2006 and December 2010. Last year there were over 211 medications in short supply affecting numerous classes, including chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, and anesthetic drugs.

Dire Consequences

At the briefing, ASCO President Michael P. Link MD, explained how 2011 could be the worst year since the problem has been tracked. “Through the middle of June, there are already 156 new drug shortages. If this trend holds through the rest of the year we must brace ourselves for more than 300 new cases.”

Dr. Link outlined the many consequences shortages have on cancer patients and oncology practices including treatment delays, less effective or no workaround therapies, patient anxiety, the time and expense practices waste on finding supply, the adverse effect on ongoing clinical trials, and a price markup that increases the cost of care.

Congressional Bills

Many in the oncology community, including ASCO, are backing two Congressional bills introduced this year for provisions that are important first steps in addressing this complex issue.

The Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act, introduced in February by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) and Robert Casey (D-Pa), contains some of the recommendations from the November 2010 Drug Shortages Summit co-convened by ASCO.

In June, Representatives Tom Rooney (R-Fla) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo) introduced HR 2245, which provides the FDA with enhanced authority to require notification from manufacturers expecting a disruption in their usual supply of drugs.

Briefing participants included ASCO, Association of Community Cancer Centers, Association of Oncology Social Work, American Society of Health System Pharmacists, Community Oncology Alliance, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Oncology Nursing Society, Children’s Cause for Cancer Advocacy, and US Oncology. ■

© 2011. American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.