Michael Griffith has a rare and aggressive form of cholangiocarcinoma, a bile duct cancer, and has been taking the chemo drug Cisplatin, but he has been forced to miss five doses due to the shortage and says his cancer is growing rapidly.
Griffith learned about the interruption to his treatment during a trip to his doctor’s office last month. He told CBS News Sacramento ‘just in that short amount of time, it’s already grown.’
‘I really don’t know how long I can allow it to keep growing,’ he said.
Griffith says he’s trying to find the joy in the everyday as he is among hundreds of thousands of cancer patients waiting for the life-saving medicine.
Michael Griffith and his fiancé Nikki Smith share their concerns amid the nationwide shortage. Griffith is on cisplatin – one of the 14 drugs that are unavailable
A nurse administering chemotherapy treatment to a patient. Hundreds of thousands of cancer patients are waiting for the life-saving medicine right now
The Sacramento offices of Kaiser Permanente where Griffith was receiving treatment. Griffith learned about the interruption to his treatment during a trip to his doctor’s office last month. He told CBS News Sacramento ‘just in that short amount of time, it’s already grown’
Cisplatin, the drug Griffith is on, and the chemo drug carboplatin are used to treat a variety of cancers, and both are currently unavailable.
Griffith’s fiancé Nikki Smith told the news outlet that she ‘had no idea this was going on.’
‘I didn’t know it would affect us and I didn’t know to ask why,’ Smith said.’ There’s something wrong here and we need to change this.’
It’s unclear what has led to the drug shortage, however, the shuttering of a manufacturing plant in India has been cited as a possible reason, along with increased demands for the chemo drugs.
Dr. Bill Dahut, Chief Scientific Officer of the American Cancer Society, told the news outlet that there has been a shortage taking place on-and-off for at least a decade.
‘This combination of older plants, no redundancy, less profit motive for those manufactured in the States and increasing need leads to these shortages,’ Dahut said.
But Dahut and Dr. Eleanora Teplinsky, a medical oncologist with Valley Health System, believe that this is an urgent matter and are concerned about the long-term impact it will have.
In the meantime, doctors are forced to ration the drugs that are the sole treatment option for countless patients.
‘We can’t just take one drug out and put a new one in. It’s not that simple as substituting one medication for another,’ Teplinsky told the news outlet.
Cisplatin, the drug Griffith is on, and the chemo drug carboplatin are used to treat a variety of cancers, and both are currently unavailable. Dr. Bill Dahut, Chief Scientific Officer of the American Cancer Society says there has been a shortage for at least a decade
Kaiser Permanente, Griffith’s medical provider, issued this statement to CBS13 regarding the shortage:
‘At this time, there is no definitive information on when supply of Cisplatin will return to pre-shortage levels. We are carefully managing the sustainability of our current supplies of Cisplatin in order to continue delivering high-quality care for our patients.
‘Our priority is always the health and well-being of our patients. We recognize any time there is a national shortage of a medication, like Cisplatin, that patients who are affected may feel anxious. We want every patient to fully understand and be comfortable with their treatment plan.
‘Our physicians and pharmacists are working with their patients to ensure their treatment plan is as effective as possible and to identify alternative treatments when necessary. ‘
Dahut said the American Cancer Society is calling on Congress to take emergency action.
‘This is a real problem. And unless something is done about this, this is going to be a recurring problem,’ he said.
‘I think we are going to have patients lose their lives for lack of availability.’
This shows the number of drugs in shortage by year since January 2001. There have been 47 reports so far in 2023, the ASHP said
The above graph shows the number of drugs currently in shortage according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
Griffith is trying to remain hopeful during the uncertainty and spoke out in hopes that his story will raise awareness about the situation.
‘They’re not gonna make a change unless they have to,’ Smith said.
I’ve been writing to the White House almost every day. Are they going to answer me? No. But when this comes across their table maybe they’ll say, “500,000 people are writing us about this every day, we have to do something.”‘
‘I would encourage everybody to continue to push for this change. Without it, who knows where we are going to be. It may get a lot worse before it gets better,’ Griffith said.
For now, he understands that time is precious.
‘I need to do whatever I can to make sure I’m there for the people I love for a long time to come.’