Indiana hospitals are being forced to delay some treatments and find alternate medications because of a growing shortage of drugs that medical professionals say is the worst in a decade.

The number of drugs in short supply has risen from 70 in 2006 to 211 last year, and this year isn't looking any better, according to the University of Utah's Drug Information service, which has tracked drug shortages for the past 10 years. In the first quarter of this year 89 drugs were in short supply, the service said.

The shortages include chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, painkillers and electrolytes used for liquid nutrition, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Officials blame the shortage on several factors, including slow production of less-profitable generics, consolidation of pharmaceutical companies, manufacturing snags and regulatory crackdowns.

Patients might not realize the shortages exist, but medical officials say it's become a challenge.

"I thought 2008 was a bad year until I got to 2009 until I got to 2010," said Susan Brown, pharmacy director at Franciscan Alliance.

Dr. Larry Cripe, an oncologist at the IU Simon Cancer Center, said doctors at the center have had to prioritize who receives cytarabine, a chemotherapy drug used to treat blood cancers.

They've had to delay treatment by a few days and are reserving the drug for patients for whom it has the most benefit, such as those with acute leukemia and high-grade lymphomas.

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