Cancer drug shortages threaten to derail hundreds of clinical trials

All those drug shortage reports you've been seeing recently are taking a heavy toll on drug developers. Testifying recently to Congress, HHS's Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh said that the sudden supply interruption has derailed or delayed hundreds of clinical trials around the country, threatening to impede a new wave of oncology treatments.

"The inability to obtain adequate supplies of these cancer drugs for research has resulted in promising clinical trials being suspended indefinitely and patient enrollment being abruptly halted," Dr. Koh told lawmakers. He added that the crimp in supplies has affected more than 300 studies supported by the National Cancer Institute.

An interruption in supply of no more than a few days can have an enormous impact, noted Robert DiPaola, the director of the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. "During a clinical trial, a shortage of only a few weeks in an existing drug might mean delays of years for the development of new drugs,"  

Alarms have been raised around the country about severe shortages of some treatments. That point was underscored again today, as Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) warned that the anticipated arrival of more doses of Doxil would not be enough to satisfy the backlog of orders.

- read the story from the Wall Street Journal
- here's the report on Doxil from Dow Jones

Special Report: Top drug shortages by treatment category