Comment on Drug Shortage Problem for Pediatric Cancer

UPDATE 02/21/2012:  We made a difference!!

Listen to Dr. Adamson’s 5-minute testimony in the FDA webinar today:  Dr. Adamson’s testimony

“I certainly understand that passing legislation is complex, difficult. I suspect, however, that it is no more complex or difficult than curing a child with cancer. And I can absolutely tell you it is no more complex or difficult than what children with cancer face everyday.”

 

My note from 02/13/2012:  As a parent of a child who is now thriving thanks to pediatric cancer treatment, I was alarmed at the news over the past 48 hours about a critical part of chemotherapy regimens for the most common childhood cancers – methotrexate.  My daughter received this in her spine and orally.  This is part of standard life-saving protocol for ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia – the most common pediatric cancer) and her closely related cancer (non-Hodgkin lymphoma/acute lymphoblastic lymphoma).

What we can do:  Contact our members of congress, and  contact the 4 companies responsible (methotrexate manufacturers) and demand that they prioritize production of preservative-free methotrexate and work with the FDA to import this drug if no sources available.

There are so many questions.  One cannot help but ask why in the United States, despite a federal order by President Obama in November 2011 to address this, do critical shortages of mostly injectable drugs, many involved in pediatric cancer treatment, happen?   Drug shortage order fact sheet

Here is yesterday’s New York Times article on the topic:  NY Times 02/11/2012.

Local news stations everywhere are putting a human face on this methotrexate issue by highlighting the story of a child currently on cancer treatment.

The 2 largest hospitals in my region are trying to reassure the public by announcing they have enough supply to last “for the time being.”

Further details about the impact specific to childhood cancer treatment and research can be found in this St. Jude House testimony from St. Jude Hospital’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, dated 02/09/2012.  Excerpt:

“Congress must ensure that in any solution it develops, pediatric protections are built in and pediatric experts are broadly engaged.  Children are not just small adults; rather they need specialized care and medications.  Children require medications in special strengths, packaged in smaller dose sizes, dye-free and preservative-free when possible.  Hospitalized children frequently require intravenous medications, and as you know the majority of drug shortages have been sterile injectable medications.  In many cases, fewer alternatives exist for children when a drug is in short supply.  For these reasons, the expertise of pediatric practitioners who are familiar with the nuances and intricacies of pediatric care must be included in developing solutions for drug shortages.”

I do not have any answers to why price gouging and shortages happen, but the problem has been ongoing for several years and seems to be reaching a larger audience this time around because it is such a common key ingredient in the cocktail that saves children’s lives.  It would be unconscionable to see our country revert to a time in the 1960s when only 4% of children with pediatric cancer survived for the vague reasons provided such as “manufacturing problems.”

 

About Erin W

A sensitive plant, bamboo strong.
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