A medicine used to treat childhood leukemia is in danger of running out in hospitals across the country within two weeks, the New York Times reported. The shortage could possibly put thousands of children at risk of dying from a largely curable disease, according to health officials and doctors.
According to the New York Times, hospital supplies of a drug called methotrexate – which treats acute lympoblastic leukemia or A.L.L. – have dwindled after Ben Venue Laboratories, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of the drug, suspended operations at its Bedford, Ohio, plant in November.
The company cited “significant manufacturing and quality concerns” as the reason for the production suspension.
Since then, supplies of the drug have dwindled in hospitals to the point where many oncologists fear a massive shortage occurring within the next two weeks, the New York Times reported.
“This is dire,” Valerie Jensen, associate director of the Food and Drug Administration’s drug shortages program, told the New York Times. “Supplies are just not meeting demand.”
Jensen told the New York Times there are four other manufacturers of methotrexate in the U.S., which are all trying to increase production.
The FDA is also searching for a foreign supplier to provide emergency imports while domestic companies work to meet current demands.
A.L.L. is a cancer that typically affects children between the ages of 2 and 5 and spreads to the lining of the spine and brain. Oncologists prevent the spread by injecting large quantities of preservative-free methotrexate into the spinal fluid.
“This is a crisis that I hope the FDA’s hard work can help to avert,” Dr. Michael Link, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, told the New York Times. “We have worked very hard to take what was an incurable disease and make it curable for 90 percent of the cases. But if we can’t get this drug anymore, that sets us back decades.”