Impact of oncology drug shortages on patient therapy: Unplanned treatment changes

Daniel J. Becker, Sumit Talwar, Benjamin P. Levy, Molly Thorn, Janna Roitman, Ronald H. Blum, Louis B. Harrison, Michael L. Grossbard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Purpose: Cancer drug shortages have increased considerably over the past 5 years, but quantitative analyses of the scope and effects are limited. We assessed the effects of drug shortages on outpatient medication use in a single New York City university hospital. Methods: We examined pharmacy records for drug shortages, as defined by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. We assessed outpatient records for all patients with cancer treated with infusional antineoplastic medications from April 2010 to September 2010 and April 2011 to September 2011. Results: Twelve medications were in shortage in 2010 and 22 in 2011. Drugs in shortage were used for 170 patients (50.8%) in 2010 and 241 patients (63.6%) in 2011 (P <. 001). Of 235 patients treated in August-September 2011, there were 23(9.8%) documented therapy changes due to shortages, compared with zero changes in August-September 2010 (P <. 001). Among patients treated in August-September 2010, 24 (11.4%) received paclitaxel and 19 (9.0%) received docetaxel. Among patients treated in August-September 2011,11 (4.7%) received paclitaxel and 38 (16.2%) received docetaxel, a 69% decrease for paclitaxel and 80% increase for docetaxel from 1 year prior (P =. 009, and P =. 024, respectively). The estimated cost of a single treatment with paclitaxel for one patient with body-surface area 1.75 was $47.59 versus $858.39 for docetaxel, a 1,704% increase. Surveyed physicians frequently reported lower level evidence (30.4%) and increased risk of toxicity (34.8%) with alternative therapy in drug shortage cases. Conclusion: Oncology drug shortages affected the majority of patients in our center and increased at an alarming rate. Drug shortages have substantial economic costs and mandate treatment changes that may affect efficacy and toxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e122-e128
JournalJournal of oncology practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)
  • Health Policy


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