Healthy Living: Permanent solution to drug shortage still far off, doctors say
Just over a week ago, the Food & Drug Administration took emergency steps to address a dire shortage of two critical cancer drugs, though doctors say the problem is far from being resolved as there are still concerns about the big picture. YNN's Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
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Diagnosed with childhood leukemia, 3-year-old Lily Early is now thriving in large part because of the drug Methotrexate - one which the nation recently came dangerously close to running out of due to a manufacturing shutdown.
"When she was diagnosed, 86 percent of her bone marrow was cancer cells and now it is zero. She's in remission now. So it works," said Tracy's mom, Tracey Early.
But what has doctors worried about a temporary stop-gap measure from the Food & Drug Administration to maintain supply of Methotrexate and so many other drugs is that it's just that: Temporary.
"I don't think we should rest on our laurels at all. They acknowledged the problem but we have to work harder because there are so many drugs on short supply," said NYU Langone Cancer Center Medical Director Dr. James Speyer.
With well over 200 drugs on the national shortage list the Early family's doctor is quick to point out it's an inadequate merry-go-round of supply physicians are used to.
"It's an ongoing issue. If it is not one of the drugs it is another drug," said Dr. Birte Wistinghausen, Clinical Director of Pediatric Oncology at Kravis Children's Hospital at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
And they are still being careful with supply of drugs like the one helping to save patients like Lily.
At the Kravis Children's Hospital at Mount Sinai Medical Center, to minimize any waste of Methotrexate they've actually adjusted patient treatment schedules.
"What we have asked for our patients to do is bring all the patients in that are in need of Methotrexate, bring them in on the same day because the vial sizes are made for adults, so one vial that is adult sized can easily treat several of our children," Wistinghausen said.
Doctors cite regulatory hiccups and obvious manufacturing problems and delays for shortages across the board. They say what's needed is a real examination of those issues for a permanent fix.
For its part, on top of taking emergency measures to act in a crisis, the FDA continues to support proposed legislation that would give the agency more authority to keep those shortages from happening in the first place.