FDA Moves to Head Off Shortages of 2 Cancer Drugs

Methotrexate highly effective against childhood leukemia; Doxil treats ovarian cancer

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Jensen also said the shortages tend to occur in drugs that aren't "economically attractive." This could mean that only one company produces the drug, making it harder to find alternatives if the supply dries up.

A lot of the problems are tied to generic drugs, health experts explained, because few manufacturers make them and profit margins aren't as high as for brand-name drugs still under patent protection.

On Oct. 31, 2011, President Barack Obama signed an executive order designed to help ease the drug shortages. The order directed the FDA to "take action" to prevent and reduce worsening prescription drug shortages.

In response to Tuesday's announcement, Dr. Armand Keating, president of the American Society of Hematology (ASH), said in a statement: "ASH is encouraged by the steps FDA is taking to alleviate drug shortages that have significantly affected so many patients with hematololgic malignancies under our members' care. The measures announced today are consistent with the Society's recommendations to FDA, Congress and the Obama Administration to expand the agency's authority to prevent drug shortages by requiring manufacturers to provide early notification of impending shortages and importing drugs in critical supply."

"While ASH applauds the specific actions announced today," Keating added, "we also realize that these measures represent only a portion of a solution to a much larger problem. In addition to these steps, additional measures -- such as developing a national drug registry and providing economic incentives to manufacturers to produce a steady supply of generics -- must be implemented to permanently prevent shortages. Until a complete solution is in place, treatment will be delayed and care will be rationed for critically ill patients."

More information

For more on drug shortages, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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