Cancer Drug Shortage Puts Metro Children's Lives At Risk
OKLAHOMA CITY - A drug shortage could put thousands of children's lives at risk. Doctors are saying they are weeks, maybe days away, from running out of a specific drug used to treat children with leukemia.
There are hospitals here in the metro experiencing the shortage. The drugs have become in short supply because drug companies have stopped making them.
When Mark Schoenveld's 8-month-old daughter, Elena, was diagnosed with leukemia, the family was devastated, but still hopeful.
"They gave her a decent prognosis. The fact of the matter is it's curable. There are a lot of cancers that are not curable," Schoenveld said.
But the cure depends on a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs. And a crucial one, methotrexate, is running out.
"Children will die because they can't get methotrexate," Dr. John Maris said.
Dr. Maris' hospital has only a two-month supply of the medication left, which children usually take for three years. But the shortage doesn't stop there. Twenty eight cancer drugs taken by more than half a million (550,000) patients are in short supply.
OU medical center has issued the following statement:
"OU Medical Center is impacted by the nationwide drug shortage and is ensuring all patients are getting the highest quality care available."
"This is a real, real crisis. But yes, unless something dramatic changes in the next few weeks, myself and other physicians and nurses on this very unit will have to look parents in the eyes and say we don't have methotrexate and the substitute is not as good. And I am sorry," Dr. Maris said.
That's the last thing Elena's parents want to hear.
"It's tough. But I have hope that they'll figure out a way," Schoenveld said.
There are several reasons for the shortage. There's a smaller profit margin because many of these drugs have become generic. And there are now fewer suppliers.
The largest manufacturer of methotrexate shut down its plant last fall.
Lawmakers are urging the makers of the drug to step up production.