Medication used to treat the most common form of childhood leukemia is in short supply, adding to the largest nationwide shortage of critical lifesaving hospital medications in nearly a decade.
All five pharmaceutical companies that make the injection drug methotrexate, which treats acute lymphoblastic leukemia by slowing the growth of cancer cells, have either slowed and stopped manufacturing of the drug, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The companies have cited high demand or manufacturing delays as reasons for the shortage.
If the shortage continues, physicians and pharmacists fear thousands of children will be left without lifesaving treatment.
"This, to us in oncology, is a national crisis," said Brooke Bernhardt, clinical pharmacy specialist in the department of hematology and oncology at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.
According to Dr. Michael Link, pediatric oncologist and president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, some hospital pharmacies have reported having only a couple weeks of supply left.
Many oncologists are especially worried about the shortage of the preservative-free form of methotrexate, which is considered less toxic.
Only the preservative-free methotrexate can be injected into the spinal fluid of cancer patients to prevent the spread and recurrence of the disease.
"There are couple other drugs that can be injected into the spinal fluid, but none that are as effective," said Link. "As for the high dose version of the drug, there's no workaround for it."
Each year, nearly 3,000 children and adolescents under age 20 are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. Eighty percent of children are successfully treated.
The agency said it's uncertain when the next batch of methotrexate will be available.
Let these drug companies know who they are hurting...CHILDREN!
APP Pharmaceutical Company
John Ducker , CEO & President
1501 East Woodfield Rd
Schaumburg, IL 60173
David Gaugh, Vice President & General Manager
300 Northfield Rd
Bedford, OH 44146
Hospira Pharmaceutical Company
Michael Ball, Chief Executive
275 North Field Dr
Lake Forest, IL 60045
Robert J. Coury, CEO & Chairman of the Board
1500 Corporate Dr
Canonsburg, PA 15317