Hospitals may run out of crucial cancer drug within two weeks

Nation's largest methotrexate supplier shut down production last year

Topics: Medication Administration, Quality, Performance Improvement, Pediatrics, Service Lines, Oncology

February 14, 2012

FDA and oncologists last week warned that dwindling supplies of a crucial drug used to treat childhood leukemia could run out by the end of February, the New York Times reports.

According to the Times, the shortage of methotrexate, an injectable leukemia drug that also is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, was triggered when Ben Venue Laboratories in November suspended production of the drug because of "significant manufacturing and quality concerns." The Ohio-based plant was one of the nation's largest manufacturers of the drug.

Since November, methotrexate supplies have continued to shrink. "This is a crisis that I hope the FDA's hard work can help to avert," says American Society of Clinical Oncology President Michael Link, adding, "We have worked very hard to take what was an incurable disease and made it curable for 90% of cases. If we can't get this drug anymore, that sets us back decades."

According to Valerie Jensen, the associate director of FDA's drug shortages program, there are four other methotrexate manufacturers in the United States. Those companies are working to increase production. Meanwhile, FDA is seeking a foreign producer to supplement supplies as it searches for a domestic solution (Harris, Times, 2/10).

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