Cancer Drug in Short Supply As Doctors Are Forced to Choose Who Gets It

Cancer Drug in Short Supply As Doctors Are Forced to Choose Who Gets It

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Drug shortages have been an ongoing problem in health care.  The FDA has a list of dozens of medications currently in short supply.

Among them - BCG, a common and potentially life-saving treatment for bladder cancer patients.  Dr. Edward Messing, a urologist at UR Medicine, says he has had to limit access of this medication to patients who are at risk of losing their bladders or their lives, even though other patients may be able to prevent a recurrence of their cancer if they had access to the drug.

"We've also either sent patients to other locales - some of them are in Rochester, so it's no big deal, but some are further distances - and have had a lot of patients from farther away come here for this installations because we have had more success in getting this drug than their urologists are."

Messing said he has noticed an increasing number of drug shortages in about the past seven years.

"I don't understand the economics of it, and one finger is pointing at the other. But, the long and the short of it is, bladder cancer patients are suffering, and that's just one area of it."

Messing said Merck had increased its production of BCG several years ago, but has recently been unable to keep up with demand.

Drug shortages have also included antibiotics and treatment supplies such as saline solution. The shortages have been blamed a number of causes, including the shutdown of aging plants for renovations and other manufacturing delays.

Beth Adams/WXXI News

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