Alaska News

National shortage of a chemo drug is affecting some Alaska clinics, providers say

Over the last few weeks, a manufacturer’s shortage of one medication means some Alaska chemotherapy patients have had to postpone the lifesaving treatment.

Abraxane is a prescription drug that is used to treat certain advanced pancreatic, breast and lung cancers. A note on the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ website explains that the shortage is due to manufacturing delays, and that there is currently insufficient supply for usual ordering.

“We’ve exhausted our resources, and it’s a well-known national shortage,” said Hertha Monroe, clinical nurse manager with the Katmai Oncology Group, a cancer clinic in Anchorage.

For some patients, there are alternative medications that can be used in place of abraxane, Monroe said. Others can’t. “It’s very individualized,” she said.

Monroe called the supply shortage “pretty unusual,” explaining that disruptions like this happen “very infrequently.” She said the clinic is continuing to work with the manufacturer, Bristol Myers-Squibb, to find solutions.

Not all facilities that use the drug appear to be affected. Shirley Young, a spokesperson with the Alaska Native Medical Center, said this week that the hospital does not appear to be experiencing any sort of shortage or challenge in acquiring this medication.

“The local warehouse appears to have an adequate supply,” she said.

Coleman Cutchins, state pharmacist, said Wednesday he wasn’t aware of any other chemo drug shortages besides abraxane.

“We hope this resolves quickly,” Monroe said. “It’s so distressing for our patients, and for the providers that care for them.”

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