BUFFALO, NY- Local parents with children battling cancer are worried about the supply of a life-saving drug. This latest nationwide drug shortage is only adding to the long list of critical medications in short supply.
An injectable preservative-free form of methotrexate is now in short supply across the country. The cancer it treats is acute lymphoblastic leukemia - or A.L.L. Many hospitals are reporting they only have enough methotrexate last for two weeks.
Dr. Martin Brecher, the chair of the Joint Pediatric Oncology Department at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo, says local parents have been starting to call with concerns, and fortunately he's got good news to share with them. "None of the patients we're currently caring for should be concerned that their children will not get therapy that they need," says Dr. Brecher.
Dr. Brecher believes they have enough supplies for March and hopefully to last into April and he hopes the issue will be resolved by then. The company that makes methotrexate, Ben Venue Laboratories, voluntarily suspended operations at its Ohio plant in November because of manufacturing and quality concerns.
"I can't promise that there won't be an interval when our stocks are low and we may need to use alternative medication for a brief period of time. We hope that's not the case but alternative medications are available," says Dr. Brecher.
Gretchen Snyder of Jamestown says her 5-year-old daughter, Lexie, wouldn't be in remission from A.L.L. without methotrexate. She just got an injectable dose two weeks ago and she needs another one in two months. Together with hundreds of other parents on Facebook, she says they are writing the FDA and lawmakers, and calling on the four other drug-makers to increase production of methotrexate. There are reportedly 3000 children nationwide to need it to stay alive.
Last year more than 250 life-saving or pain-reducing drugs were in short supply. This year, according to the FDA, that number has already reached 180, in many cases leading to price gouging. President Obama issued an executive order in October to help ease the problems, and last month Senator Chuck Schumer announced a 3-point plan to try to combat it.
"This is an on-going problem that needs to be solved. Many patients in need of a variety of medications that are not always in adeqate supply," says Dr. Brecher."
For Lexie, this is not her first medication that's been on the FDA's shortage list, but her mom says it is the most important.