Durbin Visits Carle Health Methodist Hospital to Discuss Nationwide Shortage of Cancer Drugs, New Hospital Funding

PEORIA – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today held a news conference at Carle Health Methodist Hospital to discuss the shortage of life-saving drugs for cancer patients. In June, Durbin urged the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) to use the Agency’s authority to immediately address the ongoing shortage as it threatens the lives of patients nationwide. FDA has since agreed to import one of the drugs for which U.S. hospitals are seeing a shortage, but widespread problems with the drug and medical supply chain remain.

“The nationwide shortage of cancer drugs has cast a somber shadow upon the lives of countless individuals, families, and communities,” said Durbin. “For patients already fighting a devastating cancer diagnosis, the emotional and physical toll of this medication scarcity is unconscionable. We must ensure no one is denied the essential care they deserve.”

Durbin also discussed the $1 million in federal funding he secured through Congressionally Directed Spending—more commonly known as an earmark—in the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) omnibus appropriations bill for Carle Health Methodist Hospital to establish a new inpatient and outpatient youth mental health facility, which will be open next year. The “Trillium Place Young Minds Center” will offer counseling, psychiatry, crisis intervention, and addiction care.

“Too many young people today face emotional scars that harm their ability to learn, grow, and live healthily, making investments in mental health all the more critical,” Durbin continued. “Carle’s new Youth and Adolescent Behavioral Health Center will serve as a beacon of hope for our young generations, a sanctuary where their mental well-being will be nurtured and protected with the utmost care.”

Two of the most critical cancer drugs currently in shortage are cisplatin and carboplatin. An FDA inspection of a manufacturing facility in India found quality control issues with cisplatin production. With production halted, doctors turned to carboplatin, which created a surge in demand that led to a shortage of that chemotherapy drug. Patients and providers nationwide have reported difficulty in obtaining these drugs—leading to delayed or denied care for cancer patients.

This shortage is particularly problematic for people facing a cancer diagnosis given that in most cases, there are no alternative treatment options available for patients. While cisplatin and carboplatin are front-line medications that successfully treat hundreds of thousands of U.S. cancer patients every year, problems at a single facility in India have caused major disruptions in the supply chain. With limited supplies, doctors are faced with difficult decisions to ration care only for their sickest patients. According to a 2020 study published in the British Medical Journal, every month delayed in cancer treatment can raise the risk of death by approximately ten percent.

In addition to other financial, competitive, and structural reasons for drug shortages, approximately 80 percent of all ingredients and raw materials going into generic prescription drugs come from China or India. In the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Durbin authored a bipartisan provision directing the National Academies to examine the dependence on foreign sources for drug manufacturing. The resulting report recommended an intentional blend of stockpiles, domestic manufacturing capacity, and overlapping sources from overseas for diversification.

The CARES Act also provided FDA with new authorities to enhance its visibility to prevent and mitigate shortages—including:

  • prioritized FDA review period for applications of generic drugs in shortage;
  • required manufacturers to notify FDA of interruptions to their supply chain; and
  • established a risk management system for drug manufacturing.

Additionally, the FY23 omnibus appropriations bill included Durbin’s bipartisan legislation to strengthen domestic manufacturing and supply chain readiness by enabling the Strategic National Stockpile to consistently sell into the commercial market and replenish supplies—which would both maintain fresh supply and foster market demand.