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Shortage of cancer drugs hits Atlanta

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 25, 2011

Flo Burke of Cumming was just a few sessions away from completing treatments for breast cancer when a change in medication sent her to the emergency room. The problem was caused by a shortage of Taxol, a drug used in her treatment. Burke, a patient at Georgia Cancer Specialists, had a severe allergic reaction after she was given an alternative drug. "I really felt like I was dying," said Burke, an office manager. Burke is lucky. Enough Taxol has been found to continue her treatments. But that doesn't alleviate the fears of other doctors and patients. The Food and Drug Administration, which has monitored the situation for six years, recently reported 2010 was a record year for drug shortages and the situation could get worse. "We are continuing to see these increased numbers for shortages, especially for older sterile injectable drugs," said Valerie Jensen, director of the FDA Drug Shortages Program. "These drugs are mainly used in hospitals and include cancer drugs, drugs needed for patients undergoing surgery and emergency drugs."

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