Cancer drug shortage could end sooner than expected

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A nationwide shortage of a crucial cancer drug could be over sooner than expected.

The FDA announced that shipments of the coveted chemotherapy drug vincristine should start back up at the end of October. That has both families and physicians in the Tampa Bay area breathing a sigh of relief.

When the FDA announced last week the drug was in short supply, cancer patient families like the Gaulins of Brandon were furious.

“That’s a breakdown in the system when we’re talking about livelihoods, and especially children,” Anthony Gaulin said. His five-year-old son Caleb was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma in July.

Considered the “bread and butter” of treating childhood cancer, vincristine supply dwindled after sole-supplier Pfizer faced what the company called “manufacturing delays.”

Another company, Teva Pharmaceuticals, discontinued the drug earlier this year. In a statement to 8 On Your Side, a representative said Teva did not have enough of the market share to create the shortage.

Dr. Saumil Patel, a pediatric clinical pharmacist at Tampa General Hospital, disagrees.

“Of course they directly impacted,” Patel said Monday.

Fortunately, Patel claims his hospital has not felt the effects of the shortage. Other facilities, like St. Joseph’s Children’s, were forced to ration or postpone treatments.

“It is a very, very, very important drug that we use in treating many, many cancers,” Patel explained.

Good news came when Pfizer announced it had ramped up Vincristine production with ships expected to resume by the end of the month.

That means patients, like little Caleb Gaulin, may get their life-saving treatments sooner than expected.

Despite expecting Vincristine shipments at the end of October, the FDA warns it could be December before hospitals across the country are back to fully-stocked.

A petition asking Congress to step in after the shortage now has more than 76,000 signatures.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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