National survey on the effect of oncology drug shortages in clinical practice: A Hematology Oncology Pharmacy Association Survey


Aurora St Luke's Medical Center


Purpose: Drug shortages are a clear and growing challenge. Prominent shortages included oncology medications and supportive care products essential for the care of patients with cancer. Oncology drug shortages often result in disruptions in the timing of chemotherapy treatments, alterations in the dose or regimen administered, or even missed doses when alternative agents are unavailable. The purpose of this survey was to characterize the impact of oncology drug shortages across the United States, including the experiences of health care organizations, resource implications, and the impact on patient safety, patient care, and clinical trials.

Methods: A 36-item online survey was distributed to membership of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association to gather information on shortages of oncology drugs (ie, all drugs essential in the care of patients with cancer, including supportive care agents).

Results: Sixty-eight US organizations participated in the survey between December 2019 and July 2020. Sixty-three percent of institutions reported one or more drug shortages per month, with a 34% increase in 2019 from 2018. Treatment delays, reduced doses, or alternative regimens were reported by 75% of respondents. The most difficult agents to obtain were vincristine, vinblastine, intravenous immunoglobulin, leucovorin, and Bacillus Calmette-Guerin.

Conclusion: A survey of US oncology pharmacists indicated that oncology drug shortages occurred frequently in 2020. Shortages led to delays in chemotherapy and changes in treatment or omission, complicated clinical research, and increased risk of medication errors and adverse outcomes.

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