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Published December 09, 2010, 12:00 AM

Cancer drugs available locally

F-M treatment centers able to adjust to periodic shortages
Cancer treatment centers in Fargo-Moorhead report they have been able to juggle to accommodate periodic shortages of drugs.

By: Patrick Springer, INFORUM

Cancer treatment centers in Fargo-Moorhead report they have been able to juggle to accommodate periodic shortages of drugs.

Shortages of drugs have caused headaches at cancer treatment centers nationwide, including some in the Twin Cities.

But administrators of Sanford Health’s Roger Maris Cancer Center and Essentia Health Cancer Center in Fargo said treatments have not been interrupted, although sometimes drug substitutions have been required.

“It’s really not a problem right now,” said Shari Hahn, operations manager for the Essentia Health Cancer Center in Fargo.

Sometimes, however, oncologists have had to substitute drugs from within those that are regarded as the standard of care when supplies are short, she added.

Substitutions also have been required in some cases at Sanford Health’s Roger Maris Cancer Center, said Mark Plencner, the center’s pharmacy coordinator.

But substitutions in cancer treatment are not unusual, he said, often because some patients cannot tolerate the side effects or do not respond well to the medication.

Still, Plencner said, providers strive to deliver the preferred medication.

“There have been occasions when we’ve been dangerously close to running out of products,” he said. At times, the clinic will contact the hospital or another center in the system to make up for a shortage.

“It’s probably been more disruptive internally than anything,” he said.

Consolidation in the pharmaceutical industry and occasional plant shutdowns by federal inspectors have caused periodic shortages of drugs, according to news reports.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

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