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Drug Shortage Worsens As It Affects Child Cancer Drug

As recently mentioned in one of our previous articles, America is experiencing a rapidly rising shortage of medical drugs that are important to everyday survival.  Almost instantly, we are about to add one more drug to that list. And this one could have even more of a negative impact than the other drugs that are in short supply.

Lost Production, Lost Hope

This drug, called methotrexate, is in such short supply that hospitals across the nation could use up the rest of their inventory within the next two weeks.  So what does methotrexate help treat?  In addition to rheumatoid arthritis, the drug is used to treat a type of childhood leukemia called acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL. A drought of the drug could spell serious trouble for many of the children who rely on it to survive, putting thousands of sick children at risk of dying.
ALL tends to affect children ages 2 to 5, and like other types of leukemia, causes an abnormal amount of cancerous white cells within the bone marrow and consequently travels throughout the rest of the body.  The sad part is that while acute lymphoblastic leukemia can certainly be fatal if left alone and untreated, with the help of methotrexate it is usually curable, and over 80% of children stricken with the cancer are completely cured of it. 

How it Works

When the lymphoblastic cells begin to spread throughout the body, the cancer eventually heads toward the brain, where it will infect the lining of the spine and brain.  Once here, the leukemia can cause massive damage to the child, and the success rate significantly lessens. 

In order to stop the leukemia in its place, oncologists inject enormous quantities of methotrexate directly into the spinal fluid.  It is important to note that not just any methotrexate can be injected; it has to be completely free of preservatives, as any trace of preservative that is injected into the spinal fluid may cause paralysis or other crippling side effects. 

Why the Shortage?

This obviously makes it trickier, as there are only a few companies who mass produce preservative-free methotrexate.   One of the nation's largest supplies, Ben Venue Laboratories, voluntarily suspended its operations due to concerns over its manufacturing procedures and quality.  This sudden move played a huge role in the sudden decline of the drug's availability.
Drug shortages continue to thwart our attempts to advance in the medical field, and this recent drought of methotrexate is just another drug added to the list . . . a list which now includes over 180 other drugs that also treat different types of cancers and infectious diseases, as well as things like ADHD.  With the heavy influence of the FDA, hopefully production cycles will resume and the shortages will become less severe.

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