WBUR

Doctor: Nationwide Cancer Drug Shortage Slowing Treatment

BOSTON — Medical care is sometimes affected by circumstances beyond our control. That’s what’s happened to Alison Curran. She was at home in Hadley when she realized something was really wrong.

“I almost thought that my son had his radio on playing music and I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s not the radio, that’s my heart, beating so fast and so loud,’ ” Curran said.

Soon after, last December, Curran collapsed and was taken to the hospital, where she learned she had an acute form of leukemia. After seven weeks of treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was treated by Dr. Eyal Attar, she was sent home and was waiting for the next step.

“I was supposed to go in for my second round of treatment and I got a phone call from Dr. Attar, telling me not to come in yet because there was a nationwide shortage of the Cyterabine and he was trying to figure out when the medicine would be coming to the Mass. General,” she said.

Curran is one of many leukemia patients around the country affected by the shortage, and Cyterabine is just one of the 14 generic cancer drugs in short supply in the U.S. right now. That’s nearly half of all generic cancer drugs on the market.

When we spoke to Curran and Dr. Attar, Attar told us the shortages are slowing treatment and forcing doctors to make changes to their usual patient regimens.

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