Shortage of a cancer-curing drug putting kids at risk

Print
Email
|

by Maggie Crane, News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on February 14, 2012 at 11:33 PM

(KMOV)--A shortage of cancer-curing drugs across the nation is putting thousands of children at risk.

 One local hospital has less than two weeks' supply of one life-saving drug and as a cancer survivor myself, this hits close to home.

 My oncologist tells me that there is no alternative for the cancer-curing drug Methotrexate.  Doctors don't mince words on this one -- this is a matter of life or death.

 Jack Dannegger is 10 years old.  He's spent the past 16 months battling leukemia.  His cancer cure depends on a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs.  But now, just over halfway through his treatment, a crucial drug -- Methotrexate -- is running out.

 "It's really scary," Jack said.  "And I'm really mad too."

 "[Methotrexate] is the main component of the chemotherapy for pediatric leukemia, so we are able to effectively treat and cure about 90 percent of children with leukemia, but without that drug, we will lose the ability to do that," Dr. Rob Hanson, oncologist at Mercy Children's Hospital Cardinals Kids Cancer Center, said.  "Children's lives are on the line, absolutely."

 Dr. Hanson said within two weeks, it's predicted that no one in the country will have any Methotrexate left.

 "You take away these drugs and we can't cure anybody," Dr. Hanson said.

 "You just pray that the dosage that he's had has worked its job because we don't have a choice," Kim Dannegger, Jack's mom, said.  "Our lives are stopped right now for this.  If we don't get this drug, we don't even want to think about the future."

 Dr. Hanson said the shortage doesn't stop at Methotrexate.  Right now, 28 cancer drugs taken by more than half a million patients are in short supply.  There are several reasons.  The drugs are generic and regulated by law, making it hard for manufacturers to make money off the drug.  There are also fewer suppliers, and the largest manufacturer of methotrexate shut down its plant last fall.

 "I just don't like how they want money for it," Jack said.  "And they don't know that if they keep making it, they're going to save a bunch of people's lives."

 Dr. Hanson is optimistic that pressure from the FDA coupled with public outcry will help ramp up production.  If not, doctors could try to get the drugs from overseas.

 

Print
Email
|