Shortage of chemotherapy drugs forcing some doctors to make tough decisions for care

For Samantha Milyard, it's personal.

"It makes a difference to these patients to get the right drug, at the right time in their treatment – life or death," she said.

The Phoenix mom is a colon cancer survivor of almost one year.

"It feels good, I'm very happy to be where I'm at," she said.

But she knows many are still in the midst of their battle – a battle now made that much harder as some life-saving drugs are in shorter supply.

"For some of those friends and people I follow, there is no other option, they’ve already been on chemo, and the ones that are working for them are the ones they are on, and if they can’t get it, it literally stops their treatment and can put them at risk again of dying or getting very ill," Milyard said.

Per the United States Food and Drug Administration, critical drugs used in chemotherapy, like Cisplatin and Carboplatin, are experiencing a nationwide shortage.


Shortage of chemotherapy drugs in U.S. leaves doctors to make tough decisions

Lawmakers say the country is only using half of its drug manufacturing capacity right now.

One National Cancer Network reports some hospitals are unable to treat all patients according to the intended dose and schedule as a result.

"This has been going on for the last several months," Dr. Madapa Kundranda said.

Kundranda is the division chief for cancer medicine at Banner M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Fortunately, he says they haven't had to take extreme steps like rationing medication. Instead, he says they've taken other steps, like asking the Arizona Pharmacy Board permission to get necessary drugs from out of state and reaching out to other Banner locations to spread around the drug where it's most needed.

"We're trying to minimize any kind of effect of this impacting our patients by doing all of these," Kundranda said.

In the meantime, from one cancer warrior to others, Samantha has this message: "Keep strong. Hold on to your rebellious hope, and just know that there are people out there who are trying to get you the things that you need."

The FDA has taken some steps to try to ease this shortage, including giving the green light to import foreign-approved versions of these drugs.

Kundranda says he hopes for the shortage to be better resolved by late June.