How drug shortages can make or break a patient's recovery

The ongoing issue of medication shortages has become a significant concern, with over 300 essential medicines currently in short supply. These drugs include treatments for the side-effects of chemotherapy, which can greatly impact a patient’s recovery process. Kristin Zastoupil, a mother whose 16-year-old son, Bryton, battled leukemia, shared her experience with the challenges posed by drug shortages during her son’s treatment.

Bryton’s chemotherapy journey was intense, lasting for 30 weeks and involving intensive pediatric treatments. However, it was the shortage of necessary drugs that truly alarmed Zastoupil. She expressed concerns about whether Bryton would receive the required medications and if they would have the best chance at defeating the leukemia.

Michael Gaino, from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, explained that drug shortages, caused by both cost and resource issues, have reached record highs. He pointed out that while some pharmaceutical companies may appear to be profitable, many generic medications actually have very slim profit margins.

The Biden administration is advocating for Congress to pass legislation addressing this issue. Meanwhile, advocates from the nonprofit Angels for Change are urging manufacturers to strengthen the supply chain. Laura Wray of Angels for Change emphasized the need for a sustainable, redundant supply chain with backup plans in case of failure.

Now that Bryton’s cancer is in remission, Zastoupil is sharing her family’s story to highlight the importance of uninterrupted medication supply. She underscored that any delays in medication or holds during the treatment process could prolong the already arduous journey towards recovery.

Sara Moniuszko, a health and lifestyle reporter at CBS News, covered this story, focusing on breaking and trending news for CBS News’ HealthWatch.

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