Roughly two million Americans are expected to receive a cancer diagnosis this year. Some members of this already vulnerable group will wind up facing what physician Andrew Schuman recently called “a tragedy happening in slow motion” — an ongoing, nationwide shortage of critical oncology drugs that routinely save or extend the lives of children and adults.
Speaking at a March 22 Senate hearing on drug shortages, Schuman, a head and neck surgeon at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, described the agonizing decisions that doctors must make when critical medicines are in short supply. “Should our limited vials go to an older woman who was just diagnosed with lung cancer? To a young man who had already been successfully taking it for his testicular cancer? Or a baby with neuroblastoma?” he asked. “As a doctor who has devoted my life to fighting cancer, it is hard to express how horrible it is to face this kind of tragedy.”