Some chemotherapy treatments deferred over drug shortages

The HSE has confirmed a "temporary reduction in the supply" of the drugs

Some chemotherapy treatments deferred over drug shortages

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Treatment for some cancer patients has reportedly been delayed by up to a week because of a 'temporary shortage' of chemotherapy drugs.

Several hospitals are reporting problems after they were left short by a pharmaceutical company over the last fortnight, according to the Irish Independent.

Baxter Healthcare - the only firm supplying the compound drugs - has struggled to deliver a full supply for Ireland, telling the Independent that they were experiencing "a temporary supply constraint".

The HSE confirmed a "temporary reduction in the supply of outsourced chemotherapy products".

In a statement, the organisation said: "We would stress [...] that the vast majority of patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment will continue to receive treatment as per their clinically planned schedule.

"The HSE is liaising with the supplier concerned and understands that they expect the capacity issue to be resolved by early next week."

They also confirmed that a "very small number of patients" are being offered treatment options in other hospitals. 

"The scope of the problem varies"

John Crown, Consultant Oncologist at St Vincent's Hospital, says the company should be penalised for the error. 

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, he argued: "Baxter are a really big international organisation, and this cannot happen again.

"There has to be something built into their contract, which is a penalty clause [...] Baxter, I believe, have within their international empire the ability - perhaps very expensively - to redeploy drugs and resources."

Explaining the current situation, he said: "The scope of the problem varies. In our own hospital, we have had a problem with access to [chemotherapy pumps], and we have I'm afraid had to make, in one or two cases, some changes to an alternative way of giving a similar drug.

"To be honest with you, there is no evidence that this is any worse that the product which Baxter was giving," he stressed.

However, he noted that the situation is more severe in hospitals that are more dependent on the supplies from Baxter. 

He said: "I've heard one rather disquieting story from another hospital [...] where basically they've had to defer most of the chemotherapy treatments in the entire hospital for a week - or, in the case of very urgent ones, to move the patient to another hospital."