Triangle families concerned about shortage of drug used to treat childhood cancer

Health Alert

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A shortage of a drug used to treat childhood cancer is leaving families across the country and in the Triangle frustrated and worried.  

Mason Fannin, 7,  loves to draw and play with his sister and brother when he’s not enduring chemotherapy to treat his leukemia. Almost every week, he receives a drug called Vincristine at UNC Children’s Hospital.

“There is no replacement for it. These kids have to have Vincristine — it’s not optional,” said Mason’s mom Ashley Fannin, a pediatric oncology nurse.  

There’s a nationwide shortage after one of the two companies that made Vincristine, stopped producing it.

“I feel like we are already going through so much just having a child with cancer. And to be told there may not be the drugs he needs to treat that cancer it’s not okay,” said Fannin. 

A statement from UNC Health Care reads, in part, “Our oncologists, pharmacists and other clinical experts are working closely with patients to minimize any potential impact, and adjusting individual treatment plans when needed. UNC Hospitals are working together to cover temporary shortages of the drug…”

Duke University Hospital is also closely monitoring the shortage.

“It is extremely frustrating,” said Kuldip Patel, a Pharmacy Officer at Duke.  “This is a national shortage, so the demand is already high to begin with and in some parts of the country from what I’m hearing there are hospitals that are completely out of the drug,” Patel added.

Although he says additional supplies or Vincristine are expected, Patel added the shortage is a continuing concern.

“That is always our worry for a drug that is already in short supply and particularly where we now only have one manufacturer that we’re depending on,” he explained.

Pfizer, the company that makes the drug, says deliveries of Vincristine are expected late this month and it expects to fully recover supplies of the drug by January 2020.

The Fannin family just hopes the drug Mason depends on will be there to help him and other kids fighting cancer.  

“We are in 2019 in America,” said his mom.  “There should not be an issue with getting the medications we need to save our children’s lives.”

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