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Keeping our Patients Covered

Karmanos pharmacists help physicians plan ahead for drug shortages
Due to shortages of cancer-fighting drugs and other pharmaceuticals, hospitals across the country are scrambling to find alternate treatments for their patients.
Karmanos pharmacists are tackling the problem by closely monitoring drug inventories and working with physicians well in advance of a patient’s treatment to assure adequate supplies or develop alternative therapies. This team approach ensures Karmanos patients always receive the best available treatment.
“There are often multiple treatments available for most cancers,” says Stephen T. Smith, RPh, MS, FASHP, director of Pharmacy Services at Karmanos. “We work very closely with our multidisciplinary teams to inform them about impending shortages. We also take into account patients currently on that shortage chemotherapy and make sure we have enough supply so they can complete a full course.”
Drugs affected include both name brands and generics used to treat a wide variety of cancers. Among those that have been in short supply are doxorubicin and cytarabine, used to treat breast cancer and leukemia, respectively. Drug supplies can fluctuate wildly. Shortages sometimes occur within weeks or even days.
“Many different issues contribute to drug shortages, from lack of raw materials and manufacturing problems to increased FDA oversight that delays production,” says Mark C. Szlaczky, RPh, PharmD, manager of Pharmacy Operations. “It’s a tough problem to solve. In the meantime, we’re prioritizing treatments, finding alternative therapies and ensuring that drugs in short supply go to the patients in greatest need.”
The number of drugs in short supply has increased steadily since 2007.
2005: 61
2006: 56
2007: 90
2008: 110
2009: 157
2010: 178
Source: Food and Drug Administration
What Can Patients Do?
Talk to your oncologist about any medication concerns and discuss possible treatment options in the event of a drug shortage. You may experience different side effects with an alternate medication, but Karmanos nurses and physicians will closely monitor your condition. Karmanos patients can feel secure knowing they’re getting the best available treatment.
© 2014 Karmanos Cancer Institute Pencil
The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center is accredited by The Joint Commission.
If members of the public have any quality-of-care or safety concerns, they may notify The Joint Commission at 630-792-5800.