The shortage is a matter of life or death for Porter Lilley (Fogelsville, PA), and the 3,500 kids diagnosed each year with acute lymphoblastic leukemia(ALL). ALL is an aggressive form of cancer that produces too many white blood cells in bone marrow. Methotrexate prevents cancerous cells from spreading once its injected directly into the spine. WIthout it, the cancer can spread to the brain and spine. Methotrexate also is used to treat bone cancers, brain tumors, lymphomas and other diseases. In some cases, doctors can find substitutes for a scarce cancer drug. For ALL, however, there's no replacement for methotrexate; going without it, or even delaying it, could leave children vulnerable to a fatal relapse.
According to the FDA, drug companies haven't kept more methotrexate on hand because it has a low profit margin. Additionally, the shortfall arose when one of the four U.S. makers of methotrexate, Ohio-based Ben Venue Laboratories, shut down production late last year because of "manufacturing and quality concerns". Methotrexate could run out in the next few weeks.