Blood Cancer Patients are Seeing a Shortage of Necessary Medicines – Help and Hope Is Now on the Way
Blood Cancer patients recently have been waiting for the medications they desperately need, due to current drug shortages. A new unique partnership is now helping to ease those challenges.
Imagine getting the drug you need for an illness, “just-in-time,” rather than when you need it most to help you. People living with certain types of blood cancers know this feeling all-too-well.
It is an unfortunate truth. Oncology drug shortages often result in disruptions in the timing of chemotherapy treatments, changes from the preferred dose or treatment regimen or even missed doses when alternative agents are unavailable.
A recent survey of U.S. oncology pharmacists indicated that oncology drug shortages occurred frequently in 2020.[i] Shortages led to delays in administering chemotherapy, changes in treatment or missed doses of prescribed medication, complicated clinical research, and increased the risk of medication errors and adverse outcomes.i
In 2021, there were over 180,000 patients diagnosed with a blood cancer,[ii] many of them being children.[iii] This Blood Cancer Awareness Month, we must recognize the silent battle these patients are fighting to ensure access to the treatments that save their lives.
Now, put yourself in their shoes: think about how you would feel if the treatment you or your loved one needs is not immediately available. Instead, the treatment takes time to arrive, requires travel to a different health care center location or may not be available and is not given. Unfortunately, this is the case for many patients due to current drug shortages, especially patients fighting certain types of leukemias and lymphomas.
To address this issue in the leukemia and lymphoma space, one pharmaceutical company partnered with researchers and patient advocacy organizations for their drug development program to ensure patients with certain rare forms of blood cancer had continuous access to a critical medication for their treatment. This unique collaboration is helping many rare blood cancer patients receive the medication they need.
For Blood Cancer Awareness Month, I spoke with Abizer Gaslightwala, vice president, head of U.S. hematology and oncology at Jazz Pharmaceuticals and Dr. Rachel Rau, Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine, to discuss some common causes and impacts of drug shortages, as well as unique approaches to collaboration during drug development to ensure reliable access to treatment for patients, specifically with certain rare forms of leukemia and lymphoma.
ABOUT OUR GUESTS
Abizer Gaslightwala is a biotechnology/pharmaceutical executive leader of marketing, strategy, and sales teams that are focused on providing support, education, and awareness of new therapies and treatments to help patients and families treat and manage their diseases. He currently leads a team at Jazz Pharmaceuticals that has the privilege and honor of helping to educate health care providers, patients, and caregivers about several types of cancer and potential treatments and is excited to share more about Jazz’s efforts in blood cancers.
Dr. Rachel Rau is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and a board-certified pediatric hematologist-oncologist at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas. Dr. Rau specializes in the care of children with blood disorders including leukemia. Dr. Rau’s lab-based research program is focused on understanding the mechanisms that cause leukemia and drive therapy resistance with the ultimate aim of translating these findings into clinical applications. She also conducts clinical research through the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), the largest pediatric cancer consortium in the world. She has led or co-led 5 COG studies, each investigating novel strategies for the treatment of children, adolescents, and young adults with leukemia.
[i] Hudson-Disalle S, DeRemer DL, Buie LW, et al. National survey on the effect of oncology drug shortages in clinical practice: A Hematology Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) survey. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2021 39:15_suppl, e13609-e13609
[ii] Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Facts and Statistics Overview. https://www.lls.org/facts-and-statistics/facts-and-statistics-overview#General%20Blood%20Cancers. Accessed July 29, 2022.
[iii] Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Childhood and Adolescent Blood Cancer Facts and Statistics. https://www.lls.org/facts-and-statistics/childhood-and-adolescent-blood-cancer-facts-and-statistics. Accessed August 23, 2022.