Childhood cancer drug in short supply, officials say

Childhood drug in short supply, officials say

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A vital drug used to treat childhood cancer is in short supply.

Officials at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital say Vincristine is a widely-used cancer chemo-therapy drug.

Dr. James Hoffman, chief patient safety officer at St. Jude, says Vincristine has been a “go-to” drug for decades. It is used to treat common childhood cancers such as leukemia and brain tumors.

Hoffman, says St. Jude has enough supply of the drug for current patients, but the hospital's "drug shortage task force" is always working on a plan if levels drop to the point where it starts to affect patients.

“Well, I always say it’s unfortunate that drug shortages have been going on for so long it really became a part of our routine practice. Constantly, every week, we’re talking about what’s on short supply,” said Hoffman.

Let’s take the drug Vincristine for example. Two companies, Pfizer and Teva Pharmaceuticals, once produced the injectable drug.

However, in July, Teva Pharmaceuticals made a “business decision” to stop producing it -- according to the Childhood Oncology Group.

“Years ago, you would have three or four manufacturers. If one has trouble, you have enough flex in the supply chain,” said Hoffman. “Now with Vincristine and many other injectable drugs for St. Jude Patients, we only have one supplier.”

Pfizer says they are experiencing a manufacturing delay, but plan to have the drug ready for distribution by the end of the month.

A St. Jude spokesperson says if Pfizer sticks to their redistribution schedule, there should be no lapse in care for their patients.

Copyright 2019 WMC. All rights reserved.