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Cancer Drugs Too Cheap Say Producers

Cancer experts have warned of a "frightening" crisis as pharmaceutical companies abandon production of one of the most widely used chemotherapy drugs because it is not profitable enough.

Fluorouracil - also known as 5-FU - is one of the most frequently used components in chemo combinations used to treat bowel and breast cancer in the UK and worldwide.

But cancer specialists in Germany have warned that the drug has become increasingly difficult to obtain as producers turn to newer, more profitable treatments.

Out of six companies that once supplied 5-FU to German cancer clinics, only one is still doing so.

"The situation is starting to frighten us," said Thorsten Hoppe-Tichy, head of the pharmacy at Heidelberg university hospital.

Pharmaceutical companies say the drug has become too cheap for them to make a profit on.

One German-based former producer Medac admitted: "The production of 5-FU is not profitable for us."

Cancer specialist Dr Wolf-Dieter Ludwig - chairman of the drugs section of the German Medical Association - said: "It is only a question of time until we run into serious problems."

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