The dangerous effects of US drug shortages have been made all too clear in a new study. In 2010, sufferers of Hodgkin's lymphoma—who tend to be teenagers—suffered relapses that were likely due to limited supply of mechlorethamine, a generic medication used to treat the cancer. When substitutes were used in its place, "the difference (was) just shocking," says the study's author. "We thought the alternative was just as safe, of course, so it was a real surprise when we reviewed the data."
Researchers reviewed relapse rates in 181 patients who received mechlorethamine and 40 patients who got a substitute, USA Today reports. The shortage, which ended in October, came as the drug's maker struggled to find a contractor to manufacture it in a new location. "This is a ridiculous situation for the industry that leads the world in 21st-century meds but can't provide 1960s drugs," says a cancer expert. "The essential fact is that generic drugs are a low-profit industry, making it less attractive to drug makers."