Eastern Iowa not immune to national drug shortage - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Eastern Iowa not immune to national drug shortage

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Medical treatments across the board, from chemotherapy to antibiotics, are seeing shortages this year.

The Food and Drug Administration says a lot of this problem comes from manufacturers simply decided to quit making the drugs.

According to the FDA, some of that has to do with production shutdowns because of manufacturing problems such as contamination.

In other cases, it says, producing generics is not profitable enough for some companies to continue.

Judy Miles helps out at New Beginnings Food and Needs pantry in Dubuque. She's a regular and spirited volunteer, and she's also a stage four ovarian cancer patient.

Chemotherapy kept the cancer at bay for about one year, but in May, it returned, meaning more chemo.

"They started it. I got one dosage here. The second dose, Mercy or Medical Associates had to go borrow some of the dosage from someone else because they were already short, and by the next month they were out," she said.

The FDA lists current drug shortages. On its Website: DOXIL, the very chemo drug Miles needed for her treatment.

DOXIL is a product of Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, of Johnson & Johnson. The company released a statement in September, in which it said, "DOXIL is produced by a specialty third-party contract manufacturer. Recently, this third-party manufacturer indicated its intentions to transition out of the contract manufacturing services business over the next several years."

Meanwhile, the letter said, "applications continue to be added to the wait list in order of receipt and verification."

The company started a program, through which doctors could request access to the limited supply of DOXIL for their patients.

Dr. Mark Hermann is a medical oncologist with Dubuque Internal Medicine.

"Some of these medicines have been used for years for treatment of established cancers, and with this lack of production, we're having trouble getting access to those medications," he said. "Because of that, we've had to adjust patients' treatments, protocols, based on those limitations."

Hermann is on the board of the Iowa Oncology Society, which is speaking out about the growing shortage of cancer drugs.

"If we don't have good alternatives to replace those, we need incentives to get the companies to start making those medicines again," he said.

Hermann said he hasn't had to turn any patient away because he has never run into a complete lack of any particular drug. He said the Iowa Oncology Society would like to see the shortage fixed before that happens.

Hermann said he'd like to see doctors, lawmakers and drug manufacturing companies all come to the table to find a solution.

Judy Miles' doctor found her third dose of DOXIL in Iowa City. She went there to receive it and, fortunately, after her cancer scan, learned the drug wasn't working for her.

She is currently on a new chemotherapy drug and said there doesn't seem to be a shortage with this one.

"Somebody, who, that was it for them, could've been in real trouble. As it was, it was nerve wracking enough," she said.

Miles' original prognosis at her initial diagnosis in April 2010 was six months.

"Needless to say, a year and a half later, I'm still here," she said, spending her valuable time helping others.

Already this year, the number of drug shortages has exceeded 211, which was the record set for all of last year. That's according to the University of Utah Drug Information Service, which tracks shortages.

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