More than half of hospital pharmacists are reporting a critical shortage of chemotherapy drugs and nearly all are reporting overall medicine supply gaps as prescription drug shortages near an all time high, according to a new survey.

Hospital pharmacists said drug shortages have forced 1 in 3 health systems to delay, cancel or ration care or switch to alternate drugs to continue to treat patients. And 99% are reporting some drug supply shortages, an American Society of Health-System Pharmacists survey of more than 1,000 pharmacists released Thursday found.

The organization reported shortages of 309 drugs, near the all-time high of 320 shortages in 2014. The scarcity of key drugs is prompting hospitals to find or substitute drugs and change treatment plans as needed.

“In some cases, there are no alternatives to the affected drugs, which puts patients at risk,” ASHP Chief Executive Officer Paul W. Abramowitz said in a statement. “This issue requires quick action from Congress to address the underlying causes of shortages and ensure patients have the medications they need.”

Cancer drug shortages

In June, the Food and Drug Administration said it will temporarily allow overseas drug manufacturers to import some chemotherapy drugs.

The FDA allowed Qilu Pharmaceutical, a drug manufacturer in China, to import the injectable chemotherapy drug cisplatin in 50-milligram vials. Toronto pharmaceutical company Apotex Corp. will distribute the medication in the United States.

More than a dozen cancer drugs have been in shortage in recent months, including cisplatin and carboplatin, used to treat lung, breast, prostate and gynecologic cancers. The National Cancer Institute said cisplatin and similar drugs are prescribed for 10% to 20% of all cancer patients.

In June, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network released a survey of 27 academic cancer centers that found 93% reported shortages of carboplatin and 70% faced shortages of cisplatin.

When cancer hospitals face such shortages, they attempt to make sure there’s enough medication for patients to finish the course of treatment, said Mike Ganio, ASHP’s senior director of pharmacy practice and quality.

Cancer hospitals facing such shortages might change medications for new patients starting on chemotherapy, said Ganio, a former pharmacy manager at an academic cancer center.

“You try to keep that patient on the same regimen as much as you can, unless they’re failing it for some reason, and then you would switch,” Ganio said.

Steroids, hormonal drugs also in short supply

More than 1 in 5 hospital pharmacists also reported shortages for steroids, hormonal drugs and oral liquids such as lidocaine, ibuprofen and amoxicillin.

A smaller number of pharmacists said heart medications, emergency prefilled syringes and drugs used for intensive care unit patients were in short supply. Others reported shortages of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medicines, antimicrobial drugs and injectable opioids.

In all, about two-thirds of pharmacists said the shortages were “moderately impactful,” which means they are managing shortages but patients are affected.

Pharmacists are managing the shortages by offering therapeutic alternatives, buying different vial sizes or concentrations and rationing medicines.