Waiting for critical, potentially life-saving drugs that might not come in time — that’s the reality for many Americans amid supply shortages.
“You are preparing for them to die. There is no other way to sugarcoat that,” said Dr. Dhaval Shah, an associate professor in the University at Buffalo's pharmaceutical sciences department.
When it comes to cancer, knowing is half the battle and treatment is the other.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, several drugs that treat prostate, bladder and other cancers are running low: pluvicto, BCG, methotrexate, cisplatin and fluorouracil.
“This is really severely affecting individuals who need them across different cancers,” Shah said.
Shah says going without cancer meds for about a month increases your chance of death by 10%.
“What if you cannot treat after diagnosis and it takes some time to treat the patient when the cancer has grown to a level that now this drug may not be effective at all," questioned Shah. "It affects from individuals at the end of the life all the way to who are just diagnosed.”
Shortages are nothing new, but this one impacts both newer drugs that are more complex and time-consuming to make, and older, generic ones.
For the latter, making these drugs comes down to the dollars and cents.
“The company who made them first…the patent has run out," Shah explained. "So there is not much money to be made."
Not to say everywhere is impacted.
Buffalo’s Roswell Park said in a statement to Spectrum News 1 Buffalo: "So far, we have been able to provide our patients with needed drugs/treatments despite the challenging circumstances.”
Shah’s advice is if you can’t get your cancer drugs and you have the means, travel to a hospital that has a supply.
Other than that, he’s calling on the government to do more.
“We have motivation to really create nonprofit organizations which keeps producing this generic without expecting monetary return," he said. "That becomes, in my opinion, a national security matter as well.”
It’ll take time to reverse this shortage.
Shah says the generic drugs will be faster since that’s just a matter of production. He guesses that could take a few months.
As for the novel drugs, which require complex materials, he thinks that could take upwards of six months.
If you or anyone you know is being impacted by this drug shortage, let us know here.