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Imagine you have cancer. You’ve been receiving Doxil on a regular six-week schedule. This has been the most successful treatment in reducing the number and size of your tumors. Today, the day before your next treatment, you receive a message that your appointment was canceled, there is not enough medication. What do you do?

On Monday, the White House released a report stating that drug shortages tripled from 2005 to 2010. The drug shortages, including various chemotherapy treatments, antibiotics, and anesthetics, have been responsible for at least 15 deaths, according to an ABC News report. For Dan Schiavello, the opening paragraph was not imaginary, but very real.

In a recent contribution, Dan raised the issue of drug shortages to the FoundHealth community in the form of his personal experience with Doxil.

On August 24th, I was told … that an application was being filed on my behalf, as part of the Doxil CARES program, and that it was just procedural … It was reinforced to me that I should not be concerned because my September 1st scheduled chemotherapy treatment was not affected. On August 30th, I was called by my oncologist and told that my appointment was being postponed because there was no Doxil available for me. I was also told that I was on an indefinite waitlist and that they have not received any shipments of Doxil since August 9th.

Stories like Dan’s are becoming all too familiar. Even more unsettling is the lack of a clear solution to the shortages. A recent Reuters report exposes the complex nature of the pharmaceutical industry and the inherent difficulty of preventing future drug shortages.

The Reuters and ABC News reports indicate that solutions need to take into consideration the companies producing the drugs, the drug patents, the economic market for particular treatments, and the limitations of the FDA to regulate and influence drug companies to produce particular drugs. In short, there is no simple answer for reducing and preventing these drug shortages.

In response, Dan recognizes that his fight is not only for himself.

However, this issue is bigger than just its impact on me. This is a national if not an international crisis. There are many, many cancer patients affected by this tragedy that may not be as resourceful as me and have nowhere to turn. I have read some internet postings that have been heartbreaking … Once I resolve the necessary steps to secure my next treatment; I plan to make it my personal mission to help increase awareness about this tragedy. I hope you can help, too.

President Obama and Congress are already acting to stop and prevent drug shortages. The “Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act of 2011” is a proposed amendment to allow the FDA increased capacity to reduce shortages. Likewise, the White House just released Obama’s executive orders for the FDA and Department of Justice to take action.

You can take action as well. The FDA website lists current shortages. Currently there are over 100 drugs on this list. Stay informed about shortages and advocate for life saving treatments. Also, visit OpenCongress to share your support of the “Preserving Access to Life-Saving Medications Act.” Do you have further suggestions for solving this problem? Share them with us here!

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