J&J Warns Doctors of Doxil Cancer-Drug Shortage

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Johnson & Johnson has cautioned doctors not to begin treatment with its Doxil cancer drug because of shortages of the medicine made by an outside manufacturer.

The company had informed doctors last month about a potential shortage of the injectable medicine, made by a unit of German drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim.

In a "Dear Healthcare Provider" letter posted this week on the drug's website, www.doxil.com, J&J confirmed that a shortage indeed now exists and that new supplies of the medicine will not be shipped until late August.

"Supplies may be intermittently available in the weeks thereafter," the letter said. "Until then, we advise that no new patients begin treatment with Doxil."

The injectable drug, which has annual global sales of about $500 million, is used to treat ovarian cancer and multiple myeloma.

Doxil is among a growing number of drugs made by specialty drugmakers to develop shortages.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed concern that in 2010 there were a record number of drug shortages, and that an increasing number have been seen this year — especially those involving older sterile injectable drugs.

The agency said the shortages have a range of causes, including manufacturing and quality issues, delays and discontinuations.

Other product shortages recently cited by the FDA include Telecris Biotherapeutics Inc's form of human immune globulin and a number of products sold by Merck & Co  including treatments for black widow spider bites, to prevent shingles and to prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B.