TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A severe shortage of a childhood cancer drug should ease before hospitals run out of it in a couple weeks, a top federal regulator said Tuesday. But the companies that make the drug are giving few details about how they will find a long-term solution to end the problem.
Valerie Jensen, associate director of the Food and Drug Administration’s drug shortage program, said her team is working with the three makers of preservative-free methotrexate, which is used to treat the most common childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL.
The drug, which cures up to 90 percent of children with ALL, has been in very short supply in recent weeks because a leading maker of the drug shut down some of its factories late last year.
Hospitals have warned the FDA that treatments for children with ALL could be stalled if new shipments of the drug aren’t received within a couple weeks. That could lessen the chances of children being cured of the disease.
“We understand from all three companies that they will be starting to ship by the end of the month,” Jensen told The Associated Press. She noted that federal regulations bar the FDA from discussing plans of specific companies, as that’s considered proprietary information.
_Mylan says it’s working on increasing manufacturing capacity, which includes getting approval for that from the FDA. The company has an emergency supply of small vials of methotrexate, and plans to ship larger vials at the end of the month.
_Hospira temporarily boosted production to address the shortage issue, but then ran out of the active ingredient. It is still producing some of the drug, but is trying to get more of the active ingredient.
_Sandoz is aiming to ship some of the drug in late February. The company did not provide any details.
APP Pharmaceuticals LLC, which makes a form of methotrexate with preservative, said it is working with the FDA to determine whether it could get approval for a preservative-free formula. The preservative-free version is needed by both children and adults when methotrexate is given in very high doses intravenously or by injection in spinal fluid. Preservatives in the drug can cause potentially fatal respiratory and organ damage or, when put into spinal fluid, paralysis.
Dr. Peter Adamson, chairman of the Children’s Oncology Group, a network of 200-plus North American hospitals treating children with cancer, said FDA officials “have been reassuring in discussions that this is not going to be a prolonged shortage.”
Still, he said: “Until the drug is actually delivered, we can’t be sure.”
Until late last year, five drugmakers in the U.S. manufactured the generic injected cancer medicine methotrexate, which is crucial for treating children and adults with ALL as well as children with other, less-common cancers.
Four of those companies made a preservative-free version. So, when one of the biggest makers of the preservative-free methotrexate, Ben Venue Laboratories Inc., recently shut down its four factories in Bedford, Ohio, possibly for a year, due to serious quality problems, the on-again, off-again methotrexate shortage that began in late 2008 quickly turned into a crisis. That’s because the other companies cannot quickly pick up the slack.
Methotrexate is just one of 283 drugs currently in short supply. Those include 27 new shortages reported this year and 215 that began in 2010 or 2011 and remain unresolved, according to Erin R. Fox, manager of the University of Utah Drug Information Service, which tracks national drug shortages.View Entire Story
By Elaine Donnelly
Extending sexual misconduct to combat units
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Politics, economics, and business from a real world perspective.
Consummate traveler Todd DeFeo explores the unique stories that make destinations worth going to.
It's a big world to play in, and learn from. Join us as we travel the boundaries and beyond.
The Red Thread is written for that special tribe: adoptive families and those who hope to be.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention