Lifesaving drugs to treat children with cancer facing shortages

WASHINGTON D.C. — Lifesaving drugs needed to treat children with cancer and other serious diseases are in short supply, according to a report by the Food and Drug Administration.

The report said drug shortages are lasting longer and becoming more common, which is posing threats to patients.

It said nine of the 11 drugs used to treat the most common childhood cancer are in and out of shortage.


"Adding insult to injury is the fact that we don't have substitutions," said Dr. Yoram Unguru, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist with the Herman and Walter Samuelson Children's Hospital at Sinai and the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. "We don't have a different medicine that we can use in place of one of those lifesaving drugs."

The report points to economic factors as the reasons for drug shortages and said there aren't enough incentives for manufacturers to produce less profitable drugs.

"You can imagine the parents and the kid's amazement when they hear about this," Unguru said. "You've got an otherwise treatable and often curable disease that no longer you're as sure about because you're missing a drug. The fact that there are market forces preventing kids from getting these drugs, who are among our most vulnerable in society, is beyond frustrating."

The report recommends more transparency from the manufacturers regarding contracting practices and calls for a rating system to reward companies that keep up with the need for older drugs.

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