“Cancer patients and their doctors are grappling with a record-high shortage of effective chemotherapy, putting their treatment — and lives — at risk,” Rene Ebersole writes over at The Washington Post. “’The majority are cheap, generic drugs that have been utilized in cancer medicine for decades,’ says Satyajit Kosuri, clinical director of the stem cell transplant and cellular therapy program at the University of Chicago, who has experienced the consequences firsthand. At the end of last year, there were 295 active medication shortages, ranging from antibiotics and anesthetics to cardiac mediations and chemotherapy drugs, according to a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs report, a 30 percent increase since 2021. Chemotherapy drugs, particularly those used to treat kids’ cancers, are among those medications experiencing some of the most prolonged shortages, says Yoram Unguru, a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at the Children’s Hospital at Sinai and core faculty, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. ‘These are the backbones of curative regimes,’ he says. ‘We don’t have alternatives — it’s not like I can substitute a particular scarce chemotherapy agent with another. This isn’t strep throat or some other infection where if I don’t have amoxicillin, I can swap it out for something that’s probably if not as good, almost as good.’ The root of the drug shortage crisis, most experts agree, is related to low profit margins on generic drugs, an overreliance on foreign manufacturing, increasing quality risks and brittle supply chains. ‘These drugs that are in short supply are not the blockbusters that pharmaceutical companies make big bucks from,’ Unguru explains. ‘They’re older, generic injectable drugs that companies don’t get a huge profit on. As a result, few companies make them, and those that do make just enough to fill demand. If suddenly one of those companies decides to get out of the market, or there’s a production problem, or they have difficulty sourcing the raw ingredients — roughly 80 percent of which come from China and India — there will be a drug shortages. Delays in treatment caused by shortages can have tragic consequences. One recent meta-analysis found that a four-week treatment delay can be associated with increased sickness or mortality for more than 40 percent of common cancers, including bladder, breast, colon and lung cancer. Rene Ebersole, “Cancer patients are confronting widespread shortages of chemotherapy drugs,” The Washington Post.