Cancer Treatment:

Efforts to More Fully Utilize the Pacific Yew's Bark

T-RCED-92-36: Published: Mar 4, 1992. Publicly Released: Mar 4, 1992.

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GAO discussed whether the Pacific yew's bark is being fully utilized. GAO noted that: (1) the Pacific yew's bark is the only approved source of the anticancer drug taxol; (2) the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) entered into cooperative agreements with a major pharmaceutical company to provide it with Pacific yew bark; (3) neither cooperative agreement established full utilization as a program goal or requirement; and (4) all of the usable bark which could have been collected on federal lands in 1991 was not collected. GAO also noted that usable yew bark was not collected: (1) prior to sawmill harvesting; (2) from branches and stems with smaller diameters; (3) from trees which were scattered throughout wide geographical areas; or (4) before the taxol content had deteriorated or the bark was burned. GAO also noted that the: (1) Service and BLM are working with the pharmaceutical company to include provisions in their fiscal year 1992 Pacific yew program plans which would require the agencies to assign responsibilities for ensuring increased utilization, establish utilization standards, and monitor compliance with utilization provisions; (2) Service and BLM have established policies to monitor salvage operations to ensure that usable bark buried by logging debris is not overlooked and burned along with other debris; (3) Service has instructed its field personnel to ensure that bark from smaller yew branches and stems is utilized; and (4) pharmaceutical companies' contractor instructed collectors to collect bark from smaller branches.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Public Law 102-335, dated August 7, 1992, containt the full-utilization standards contained in H.R. 3836.

    Matter: Because existing and future demand clearly exceed the current supply of taxol, Congress should enact the full-utilization provisions of H.R. 3836 to provide both a clear legislative requirement to more fully utilize the tree's bark as well as a statutory basis for promulgating implementing regulations.


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