The survey, which included responses from 27 NCCN member institutions, revealed that 93% are experiencing a shortage of carboplatin and that 70% have reported a shortage of cisplatin.
“This is an unacceptable situation,” Robert W. Carlson, MD, NCCN’s chief executive offer, said in the statement released by the network.
“We are hearing from oncologists and pharmacists across the country who have to scramble to find appropriate alternatives for treating their patients with cancer right now,” Dr. Carlson said. And while the survey results show patients are still able to get lifesaving care, “it comes at a burden to our overtaxed medical facilities.”
The NCCN called on the federal government, the pharmaceutical industry, providers, and payers to take steps to “help mitigate any impacts” from this cancer drug shortage.
“We need to work together to improve the current situation and prevent it from happening again in the future,” Dr. Carlson stressed.
Carboplatin and cisplatin, which are frequently used together for systemic treatment, are highly effective therapies prescribed to treat many cancer types, including lung, breast, and prostate cancers, as well as leukemias and lymphomas. An estimated 500,000 new patients with cancer receive these agents each year.
The current survey, conducted over the last week of May, found that 100% of responding centers are able to continue to treat patients who need cisplatin without delays.
The same cannot be said for carboplatin: only 64% of centers said they are still able to continue treating all current patients receiving the platinum-based therapy. Among 19 responding centers, 20% reported that they were continuing carboplatin regimens for some but not all patients. And 16% reported treatment delays from having to obtain prior authorization for modified treatment plans, though none reported denials.
“Carboplatin has been in short supply for months but in the last 4 weeks has reached a critical stage,” according to one survey comment. “Without additional inventory many of our sites will be out of drug by early next week.”
In response to the survey question, “Is your center experiencing a shortage of carboplatin,” others made similar comments:
- “Current shipments from established manufacturers have been paused.”
- “The supply of carboplatin available is not meeting our demands.”
- “Without additional supply in early June, we will have to implement several shortage mitigation strategies.”
Survey respondents also addressed whether manufacturers or suppliers have provided any indication of when these drugs will become readily available again. For both drugs, about 60% of respondents said no. And for those who do receive updates, many noted that the “information is tentative and variable.”
Respondents indicated that other cancer agents, including methotrexate (67%) and 5FU (26%), are also in short supply at their centers.
The shortage and the uncertainty as to when it will end are forcing some centers to develop conservation and mitigation strategies.
The NCCN has broadly outlined how the federal government, the pharmaceutical industry, providers, and payers can help with prevention and mitigation. The NCCN has called on the federal government and the pharmaceutical industry to work to secure a steady supply of core anticancer drugs and has asked payers to “put patients first and provide flexible and efficient systems of providing coverage for alternative therapies replacing anti-cancer drugs that are unavailable or in shortage.”
Overall, the survey results “demonstrate the widespread impact of the chemotherapy shortage,” said Alyssa Schatz, MSW, senior director of policy and advocacy for NCCN. “We hope that by sharing this survey and calling for united action across the oncology community, we can come together to prevent future drug shortages and ensure quality, effective, equitable, and accessible cancer care for all.”
A version of this article first appeared on.