Berman Institute Hosts Working Group On Chemotherapy Shortage

So much effort, angst, and money is expended in the fight against cancer, it is a terrible irony that effective treatments – many of which are critical components in life-saving regimens for pediatric cancer—have become so affordable as to be uneconomical to produce, creating a supply shortage.  Consequently, physicians are faced with grim ethical choices of how to apportion these drugs among equally deserving patients.

A team from the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, led by Yoram Unguru, MD, MS, MA, also a pediatric hematologist / oncologist at the Herman and Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai, will gather a distinguished group of experts for the working group meeting, to be held January 30, 2013 at the Berman Institute in Baltimore, MD.  The group will work to develop ethical frameworks for decision-making both within and between healthcare institutions related to drug shortages.

“This is a real and significant problem with far-reaching impact on clinical care and research.  Children’s lives are at stake,” says Unguru.  “Physicians are in an untenable position; imagine having to decide which child will receive a necessary treatment and which will not, knowing that this decision will have a negative impact on a child’s life.  Our hope is that this meeting will offer clinicians substantive guidance as they grapple with these and related tragic choices.”

Unguru will be joined by a team from the Berman Institute, including director Ruth R. Faden, as well as an impressive list of experts that includes: 

  • Conrad Fernandez, Professor and head of the division of pediatric hematology/oncology in the Department of Pediatrics, IWK Health Centre, Canada
  • Steven Joffe, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and of Global Health and Social Medicine, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School 
  • Peter C. Adamson, Chair of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG); Professor of Pediatrics and Pharmacology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Chief of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Lisa Bomgaars, Director of Clinical Research Operations, Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers 
  • Eduvigis Cruz-Arrieta, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medical Psychology in Psychiatry and Pediatrics, Columbia University 
  • Eric Kodish, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Ethics, Humanities, and Spiritual Care 
  • Robert “Skip” Nelson, Deputy Director and Senior Pediatric Ethicist in the Office of Pediatric Therapeutics, Office of the Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • A. Kim Ritchey, President, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology; Board of Directors, American Board of Pediatrics;  Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
  • Christine Grady, Chief, NIH Clinical Center Department of Bioethics
  • I. Glenn Cohen, Assistant Professor, Harvard Law School and Co-Director, Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics
  • Carol Taylor, Senior research scholar and professor of nursing, Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University 


Media Contact:
Leah Ramsay

Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics

Working group contact:
Yoram Unguru,