What if you couldn't access your pills? - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

What if you couldn't access your pills?

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - For those diagnosed with cancer, taking your medication can be a matter of life or death. But what if you couldn't access your pills? A local oncologist is pleading for help as the closure of one of the nation's largest suppliers of chemotherapy drugs closes up shop.

Cancer Center of Guam oncologist Dr. Sam Friedman says we have a crisis in our hands. "Floridainfusion was the largest supplier of chemotherapy drugs in the U.S. they were a multibillion dollar company and for years we've been getting our drugs there," he said, "it was running very smoothly and all of a sudden without any notice Florida Infusion decided to close its doors and we were told a week before they closed their doors."

Friedman says they've written other stateside wholesalers - none of whom are showing interest in supplying Guam.

What does this mean for cancer patients receiving active treatment?

He said, "We probably have somewhere around one hundred fifty patients under active treatment at this time and it affects them and anyone who falls sick with cancer now and needs treatment we're going to have problems finding the drugs."

And supplies are running out. Prior to Floridainfusion's closure, Friedman says a large supply was purchased but that was a month ago and active drugs are dwindling with a higher demand for bio drugs now more commonly used to treat cancers. Friedman says bio drugs must be iced when shipped - adding to its cost. He adds, even if we identified a willing vendor, prices would be more than any insurance company or Medicare could cover.

"Because we live on Guam all the drugs are shipped free overnight in the U.S. mainland if you're on Guam it cost you $600 four to $600 to $700 every time you make a shipment Medicare will not recognize that even from Florida Infusion most of the prices that Medicare were paying was less than what we were paying and you have to add shipping cost to this," he said.

What's next?

"I don't honestly know what the next step is," he said. "I think the patients feel even more helpless than we do because they don't know what to do we've been trying and not running into any good luck."

Dr. Friedman proposes that the Guam Memorial Hospital purchase the cancer drugs which can then be purchase from them - what he says is also the cheapest alternative for GovGuam as well.

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