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Survey finds drug shortages may be hastening cancer deaths

Medscape (2/3, Mulcahy) reports, "Cancer drug shortages hastened the deaths of some patients in 2011, according to a small survey of American clinicians, conducted by a for-profit research firm with ties to drug companies, that was released this week." What's more, "it is projected that drug shortages will continue to hasten the deaths of cancer patients in the coming year, according to the survey." According to Michael P. Link, MD, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), "economics are driving the problem. 'There are numerous causes for the escalating drug shortage crisis, but in our view, none are as powerful as simple economics,' write Dr. Link and 2 coauthors in an essay published online January 30 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology."

Aides say funding bill for FDA may address drug shortages. Reuters (2/3, Yukhananov) reports a House of Representatives will meet next week to discuss a US Food and Drug Administration funding bill, where they will also determine whether to add a measure to the FDA funding bill, that would address drug shortages involving life-saving medications and other drugs.

Mikulski bill would accelerate FDA approval process of new drugs. The Baltimore Sun (2/3, Fritze) reports, "Drugs for chronic conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and diabetes would move through the Food and Drug Administration approval process more rapidly under a bipartisan bill Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski will unveil Thursday." According to the Sun, "the legislation, which will have Republican co-sponsors in the House and Senate, would direct $50 million to increase the number of experimental drugs that enter the FDA approval pipeline." In addition, "the proposal is intended to help drugs clear a critical and expensive hurdle between initial discovery and FDA testing -- a phase known in the industry as the 'Valley of Death' because development of so many drugs stalls for lack of funding."

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