Hospitals face shortage of vital pediatric cancer drug

'Everyone needs to be screaming about this' Nationwide shortage of childhood cancer-fighting drug

There is a nationwide shortage of the vital pediatric cancer-fighting drug, Vincristine.

The sole supplier of the drug, Pfizer/Hospira, credits the shortage to a manufacturing delay, according to a notice from the Children's Oncology Group.

“Vincristine is such an important drug for the duration of the entire two-year treatment for children with cancer," Dr. Richard Lemons said.

Dr. Lemons is a Pediatric Hematology Oncologist for Primary Children's Hospital and the University of Utah.

Children's Primary Hospital staff is working with other hospitals to ensure everyone has enough of the drug to last until more is made available. Drug shortages are not uncommon, unfortunately, so hospitals must prepare for things like this, Dr. Lemons said.

“We feel comfortable and confident that we will have an adequate supply now to treat the children now until we receive new supplies," he said.

A new shipment of Vincristine is expected at the end of the month.

That isn't a good enough answer for Alison Quenneville whose three-year-old son, Tre, is alive today because of Vincristine.

“Tre is my three-year-old and he was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was two years old," she said.

He has been in remission for about a year now.

“We still worry about the cancer coming back, always," she said.

The stress and worry are only amplified now that Quenneville has learned of the drug shortage.

"I haven’t slept well in a very long time. This doesn’t help," she said.

She is infuriated that the drug company could let it get this far.

“These are our kids and they are literally dying and this drug will save many of them," Quenneville said.

She hopes this will serve as a call to action for people, as does Dr. Lemons.

“Everyone needs to be screaming about this," Quenneville said.

Both Quenneville and Dr. Lemons suggested people reach out to elected officials and/or email the FDA at drugshortages@fda.hhs.gov to push for solutions to drug shortages and prevent this from ever happening again.

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