If you found yourself biting your nails while following the news on recent shortages in cancer-drug supply, you may have been bandaging your fingers after a February announcement that the United States was close to running out of a critical component of chemotherapy treatment for children. Now Stanford’s Michael Link, MD, professor of pediatrics and current president of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, provides some insight on the topic for an Inside Stanford Medicine Q&A.
An excerpt from Link’s interview with science writer Erin Digitale, PhD:
Q: How is the so-called “gray market” involved in drug shortages?
Link: The shortages have created an opportunity for secondary drug distributors to make additional profits. With early knowledge of potential drug shortages, they have hoarded chemotherapy drugs in anticipation and sold them at amounts that are 650 percent to 3,000 percent of the original prices. This activity, referred to as a gray market, is actually a form of price gouging. The gray market has raised additional concerns about the reliability of drugs being sold to practices, because the pedigree of the drugs is uncertain. There is limited to no ability to trace their chain of custody, nor can we be sure they have been handled, stored and transported as required. It is estimated that the gray market accounts for up to 50 percent of drug sales during a drug shortage.