Medication used in chemotherapy has a short supply

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Patients who get chemotherapy most likely use a drug called vincristine, but now that drug has a short supply.

Vincristine is used to treat both adults and children with many different types of cancer.

“Not only for cancer medications and chemotherapy that we use to treat patients with cancer but especially because this is one of our main medications or this is a common medication to treat certain types of childhood cancers,” said Director of Pharmacy Services at SwedishAmerican Hospital Tom Carey.

The main manufacturer of the drug, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, discontinued vincristine leaving Pfizer as the only source now for the treatment.

“It’s just going to be less that we’re going to be able to acquire on a daily or weekly or monthly basis,” said Carey.

SwedishAmerican says dealing with a short supply of medication is common but when it comes to a critical drug like vincristine things get tricky.

“Lowering the dose down and the benefit of this is that we’re able to maintain the efficacy of the medication but we may not get the same results that we otherwise may want to see,” said Carey.

SwedishAmerican isn’t the only one concerned with the shortage.

A specialist at OSF Healthcare Dr. Kay Saving said,”We have faced other chemotherapy drug shortages in recent years but this sudden unanticipated shortage of vincristine has raised concern within the pediatric oncology community. The FDA has been working very closely with the manufacturer of vincristine, and it is now hoped, though not certain, that additional drug will be available by the end of October.”

Dr. Saving also said, “Our inpatient pharmacy has been working collaboratively with other institutions to maintain a supply of the drug for our pediatric cancer patients at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois.”

SwedishAmerican says alternative solutions may be more expensive but are hoping to ration out vincristine until supplies return to normal.

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