Drug Shortage Jeopardizes Treatment for Pediatric Cancer Patients

Vincristine is a critical chemotherapy drug used in the treatment of most childhood cancer. Its use is most prevalent in treating childhood leukemia, lymphoma, and brain tumors. Its wide-spread use, coupled with the lack of a comparable substitute, makes the shortage of Vincristine that much more deleterious for patients with the specified cancers.  Up until recently, Pfizer and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries were the sole manufacturers of Vincristine. However, in July, Teva informed the Food and Drug Administration of its “business decision” to discontinue production of Vincristine, leaving Pfizer as the sole supplier. Currently, Pfizer faces manufacturing troubles, consequently enlisting the aid of the FDA to ensure the drug’s availability to patients in need. Even with this FDA support, doctors are grappling with an unimaginable situation of having to ration doses to children who need it so desperately. Although drug shortages have become an all too common situation in the United States, substitutes or alternative therapies are usually available. The unsettling reality of this shortage is that there is no alternative therapy that exists for this drug. 

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Blog post authored by Margarita Moshe




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