Pancreatic Cancer News

Critical Advice on PERT Shortages

There is a currently a global shortage of vital medication for pancreatic cancer patients and survivors. Failing to have a consistent supply of this medication can have serious consequences on the quality of life of those patients.

Pancreatic cancer patients and survivors will likely spend the rest of their lives on Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy – more commonly known as PERT. This medication can also be identified under certain product brands: Creon®, Nutrizym® and Pancrex®.

The main function of the pancreas is to produce the enzymes needed to digest food. If the pancreas is removed following a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, then these crucial enzymes the pancreas would have created need to be replaced. As a result, these patients will spend the rest of their lives on PERT to help them digest food, get the vital nutrients they need to live and enjoy food as much as possible.

PERT can also be used throughout treatment for pancreatic cancer, supporting the patient to benefit from the nutrients in their food. Research suggests that taking PERT during treatment for pancreatic cancer can improve your expected life span. This is especially important to ensure patients are strong enough to withstand the grueling treatment that comes with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

Unfortunately, there is currently a global shortage of PERT due to a limited supply of one of the key ingredients. Whilst this shortage is global, the effects are being particularly felt by patients across Europe and Africa.

Pancreatic Cancer Action is working with fellow affected charities to support patients through this difficult time whilst also campaigning for change. Activities include:

  • Endorsing patient guidance for adults with pancreatic exocrine insufficiency.
  • Endorsing guidance for clinicians on the management of adults with pancreatic exocrine insufficiency, e.g. pharmacists and dieticians.
  • Challenging pharmaceutical companies on their PERT supplies and what changes they are making to increase supply.
  • Working with governmental departments to regulate the current supply disruptions.
  • Lobbying politicians and government officials to make urgent intervention to improve the supply chain of PERT in the UK and across Europe.

We understand how distressing and concerning this can be for patients and their families. To support them during this difficult time, we have endorsed patient guidance which can be found on our website from the link below.

This position statement and advice for patients has been developed by the Nutrition Interest Group of the Pancreatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (NIGPS), Cystic Fibrosis Specialist Group and Gastroenterology Specialist Group, British Dietetic Association.

It is also endorsed by the British Society of Gastroenterology (Pancreas section), Pancreatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Pancreatic Cancer UK, GUTS UK, CF Medical Association, Neuroendocrine Cancer UK, the British Dietetic Association and the team here at Pancreatic Cancer Action.

Whilst our mission is to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of pancreatic cancer to improve early diagnosis, we will continue to act on behalf of our patients and voice their concerns, to support them throughout their cancer journey and beyond.