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Patients' distress over cancer drug shortage 'not acceptable'


Oncologist John Crown Picture: Damien Eagers

Oncologist John Crown Picture: Damien Eagers

Oncologist John Crown Picture: Damien Eagers

It is "unacceptable" that cancer patients are being subjected to undue stress due to the shortage of chemotherapy drugs, according to a leading oncologist.

John Crown, a former senator and practising oncologist at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin, said cancer patients had enough to deal without having their chemotherapy treatment postponed for a week due to a lack of supply from the only supplier of the drug here.

"A lot of people will be put through a lot of distress," he told the Irish Independent last night.

Along with the added worry facing cancer patients, it's also "unacceptable" for the supplier, Baxter Healthcare, not being able to deliver as contracted, he said.

Donal Buggy, head of advocacy and services for the Irish Cancer Society, agreed the debacle would cause enormous anxiety and worry to cancer patients and their families. Patients receiving compounded chemotherapy through an IV drip in hospital must typically "psyche themselves up" for the treatment because of the enormous mental and physical toll it takes on them, he said.

Along with having to brace themselves for unpleasant side-effects such as fatigue and nausea that can last long after the treatment, there was the psychological aspect of enduring the treatment, he said.


"It's important we recognise that when someone is diagnosed with cancer, there is a lot of worry about treatment and outcome and they feel that having that treatment interrupted obviously adds in an additional layer of distress - especially when it's totally unnecessary," he said. "This is totally unavoidable.

"And the disruption isn't just on the patient. Their family may be with them at the time and they will have to take time off to accompany them."

The Health Service Executive (HSE) last night confirmed that 65 cancer patients have had their chemotherapy sessions "rescheduled as clinically appropriate" after the Irish Independent revealed that cancer patients are facing delays of up to a week due to the drug shortage.

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Baxter Healthcare last night said it "expects" to resume production next week but a spokesperson could not say when the drugs will be actually be available to patients.

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