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Thursday 14 December 2017

Hospitals running out of cancer drugs

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Cancer patients across the country are facing treatment difficulties as a shortage of life-saving chemotherapy drugs hits hospitals, the Irish Independent has learned.

The chemotherapy drugs, which are commercially compounded, are administered to the patient intravenously.

However, Baxter Healthcare, the only company supplying these compounded drugs to public and private hospitals, has been unable to provide full supplies over the last two weeks.

It means that oncologists in several hospitals are having to readjust the treatment they are giving to patients. These patients are reliant on the medication to treat their cancer or provide palliative care.

Due to the shortage, doctors have in some cases had to give a patient a lower dose of the drug than they need. In other cases they have had to administer an oral rather than intravenous therapy.

A spokeswoman for Baxter confirmed it is currently experiencing "a temporary supply constraint" of compounded chemotherapy products and is working with compounding units in the UK to identify if any extra capacity can be utilised.

"We expect to resume production next week. We would like to sincerely apologise for this situation," she said.

However, Dr Ray McDermott, an oncologist in Tallaght Hospital and St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin, said he is very concerned at the development.

As a supplier, Baxter Healthcare holds the monopoly of compounded chemotherapy after it took over the Irish company Fannin Compounding two years ago.

At the time there were warnings about the potential reduction in the commercial supply of chemotherapy products.

Irish Independent

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