Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Today was the day.
I recently wrote about chemotherapy shortages. They've been in the news more and more over the past 12 months. But until today, at least in my practice, they were worries.
But now the drug in short supply is methotrexate.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common cancer in children. Cancer is the most common cause of death (other than trauma) in children. Upwards of 80% of children with ALL are cured with modern treatment regimens.
But I don't know how to cure ALL without methotrexate.
There are several companies that supply methotrexate in the US, but all are experiencing production or distribution delays or suspensions. The net result? We had a meeting today to figure out if we have enough methotrexate to treat our current patients. And, if we have a shortfall, to figure out who gets treated... and who doesn't.
The good news is we found a few vials we didn't know about yesterday, and for at least the next 2 weeks, all current patients can get treated on schedule. But, if we don't get another shipment in 2 weeks, or if an adult-sized patient is diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma presents to the hospital tomorrow? We won't have enough drug.
And someone won't get treated.
I have already discussed the many reasons for drug shortages. The list of drugs in short supply is mind-bogglingly long. But we can work around a lack of Zofran. We can find alternatives for Gentamicin.
But I can't cure ALL without methotrexate.