Pre-emptive planning and manufacturing support initiatives could help avoid potential shortages in cancer drugs amid COVID-19 pandemic

Concerns have arisen that treatments for cancer patients could be affected by shortages in cancer drug supply and distribution as valuable medical resources are being diverted for the management of the COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak has overtaxed healthcare systems worldwide as countries are struggling to contain the spread of the infection, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company

Ufuk Ezer, Oncology and Hematology Analyst at GlobalData, commented: “The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has already caused disruptions in the global drug supply chains and, as the situation deepens, cancer drug shortages can arise as a result of these disruptions. As a reaction, governments could be more inclined to stockpile or limit exportation of critical cancer drugs when there are shortages.”

Despite these measures, it may prove difficult for governments to effectively instruct companies how to operate, especially in free market economies such as the US.

Ezer continued: “While there have been no serious cancer drug shortages yet during this pandemic, governments could also explore long-term solutions to implement. Pre-emptive government planning, raising manufacturing incentives and relaxing drug procurement processes could be valuable initiatives during the pandemic to prevent shortages of cancer drugs. Other initiatives could also include forming National Essential Cancer Medicines Lists, and implementing communications across governments and industries to support the integrity of global medical supply chains.”

As companies announce their plans to reinitiate their manufacturing operations, the downstream production and distribution of critical medical products could remain disrupted for a while longer. Domestic manufacturers form a critical link in the supply chain of valuable medical products, including generic chemotherapies for cancer patients. These companies are affected by the disruptions in the supply chain in different ways during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ezer adds: “While the manufacturers of generic chemotherapies are already under pressure due to low prices and difficult procurement processes dictated by governments, the COVID-19 pandemic could force some of these manufacturers to redirect their operations for the time being, or permanently.”

Although health authorities have assured the public that there are currently no significant shortages in critical cancer medicine, there is a growing risk that shortages will arise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments should be aware of and swiftly address these risks when they lead to any disruption in cancer care.

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