Chemotherapy drug shortage hits Lee County

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Many cancer patients have experienced an added stress – they wonder if they will get the medicine they need to survive. There is a nationwide shortage of common chemo drugs.

“This is 200 grams For a patient it may be one treatment,” said Tina Gegeckas, Director of Oncology Pharmacy for Lee Health.

Gegeckas said they are not immune to the dangerous shortage of two chemo drugs which may be a cancer patient’s best hope for healing. She explained, “One is cisplatin, one is carboplatin. Cisplatin is the older drug and it’s kind of the mainstay for a lot of cancers.”

Courtesy: WINK News

Those cancers include breast, ovarian, and lung cancer. The National Cancer Institute believes 10 to 20 percent of cancer patients get prescribed one of the drugs. Cisplatin was first approved in 1978. Gegeckas told WINK News Health and Medical reporter Amy Oshier both drugs are frontline infusions, “The kind that attacks all rapidly dividing cells in the body. It doesn’t just go or target the cancer cells kind of like the newer drugs.”

Since COVID, there have been a number of drug shortages, but Gegeckas added, “This is the worst I’ve ever seen.
Some weeks we get none. And some weeks we get a shipment. And like we did, I think on Friday, we got a little shipment, not a full shipment.”

Lee Health also uses strategies to stretch supply. Dr. Mark Roh is the health system’s Chief of Oncology.
He added, “Some of the tactics we’ve used is, is this the best drug? Is there an alternative that can be just as effective? Is there a way we can modify the dose meaning a little longer interval.”

So far, they have stopped short of rationing care, but recognize it may not always be the case. “We have to prioritize clearly. Patients that have an opportunity for cure are our top priority,” said Roh.

The nationwide shortage currently impacts more than 90 percent of cancer centers according to a recent survey. The Biden Administration has engaged other countries, including China, in its search for more drugs.

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