October 18, 2013
When There Are Chemotherapy Shortages, Rationing Is Up to Doctor

Recently the American Society of Health Systems Pharmacists (ASHP) announced that there may be another Doxil shortage coming down the pipeline. Doxorubicin (commonly known as Doxil or the Red Devil) is a chemotherapy drug used to treat adults and children suffering from leukemia, lung cancer, sarcoma, and other types of cancer. It is not a particularly nice drug. Side effects include potential heart damage, swelling of the hands and feet, and peeling skin, not to mention the more conventional side effects associated with chemotherapy such as vomiting and hair loss. But while treatment with Doxil may not be a pleasant experience, the drug saves lives. For patients faced with a decision between the spread of malignant tumors and swelling hands the choice seems obvious.
Currently cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States, after heart disease. There are more than 10,000 cases of childhood cancer reported annually in the U.S., and more than half a million Americans total die from cancer each year. In view of this, one might expect that chemotherapy drugs would be readily available. Regrettably, this is not always the case. While there is more Viagra, Cialis, and Rogaine than any septuagenarian could possibly want or need, we in the U.S. do not consistently produce enough lifesaving chemotherapy drugs to allow our parents, grandparents, or children their best shot at survival. We have the resources to do so, but we opt not to.
Read more. [Image: Eric Gaillard/Reuters]

When There Are Chemotherapy Shortages, Rationing Is Up to Doctor

Recently the American Society of Health Systems Pharmacists (ASHP) announced that there may be another Doxil shortage coming down the pipeline. Doxorubicin (commonly known as Doxil or the Red Devil) is a chemotherapy drug used to treat adults and children suffering from leukemia, lung cancer, sarcoma, and other types of cancer. It is not a particularly nice drug. Side effects include potential heart damage, swelling of the hands and feet, and peeling skin, not to mention the more conventional side effects associated with chemotherapy such as vomiting and hair loss. But while treatment with Doxil may not be a pleasant experience, the drug saves lives. For patients faced with a decision between the spread of malignant tumors and swelling hands the choice seems obvious.

Currently cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States, after heart disease. There are more than 10,000 cases of childhood cancer reported annually in the U.S., and more than half a million Americans total die from cancer each year. In view of this, one might expect that chemotherapy drugs would be readily available. Regrettably, this is not always the case. While there is more Viagra, Cialis, and Rogaine than any septuagenarian could possibly want or need, we in the U.S. do not consistently produce enough lifesaving chemotherapy drugs to allow our parents, grandparents, or children their best shot at survival. We have the resources to do so, but we opt not to.

Read more. [Image: Eric Gaillard/Reuters]

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