HOPA Survey Reveals Frequent Drug Shortages and Increased Risks for Medication Errors


A survey of US oncology pharmacists recently published in JCO® Oncology Practice reports that oncology drug shortages continue to present serious barriers to providing effective cancer care. Disruptions caused by drug shortages can lead to delays in timing of chemotherapy treatments, alterations in the dose or regimen administered, or even missed doses when alternative agents are unavailable. Read the JCO article.

“Persistent oncology drug shortages are a clear and growing challenge for healthcare organizations and those undergoing cancer treatment,” said Heidi D. Finnes, PharmD BCOP FHOPA, HOPA President and Senior Manager of Pharmacy Cancer Research at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. “Often, drug shortages stand in the way of providing optimal cancer care.”

The publication titled National Survey on the Effect of Oncology Drug Shortages in Clinical Practice: A Hematology Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) Survey investigated the impact of oncology drug shortages in a variety of practice settings in the United States. Specifically, the survey examined the experiences of healthcare organizations, resource implications, impact on patient safety, and clinical trials.

Clear and Growing Challenge

The 36-item survey was distributed to HOPA members between December 2019 and July 2020 and 68 US organizations responded. 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.

A drug shortage is defined as a period of time when the realized or projected demand for a drug exceeds the available supply. Prominent shortages include oncology medications and supportive care products that are essential to caring for people with cancer. In the HOPA survey, respondents said the most difficult agents to obtain were vincristine, vinblastine, intravenous immunoglobulin, leucovorin, and Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG).

Mitigating a Public Health Crisis

Oncology drug shortages continue to be a threat to public health. While recent legislation related to COVID-19 relief, such as the CARES Act of 2020, has brought strategies to decrease drug shortages, additional action needs to occur.

“As advocates for the hematology/oncology pharmacy profession, as well as for those undergoing cancer treatment, HOPA members have a large stake in resolving these critical shortages,” says Dr. Finnes.

A recent HOPA Drug Shortages Issue Brief provides recommendations for collaborative efforts among drug manufacturers, healthcare professionals, patient advocacy organizations, and government agencies to help mitigate disruptions caused by oncology drug shortages.


About HOPA

The Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) supports hematology/oncology pharmacy professionals and promotes the role of the pharmacist in collaborative cancer care. Founded in 2004, HOPA provides crucial education, networking, and advancement opportunities frequently sought by pharmacy interns, residents, fellows, students, technicians, researchers, and administrators who specialize in hematology/oncology pharmacy. Its vision is to ensure all individuals affected by cancer have a hematology/oncology pharmacist as an integral member of their care team.

SOURCE: Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association

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