UPDATE on Childhood Cancer Drug Shortage

by Kathleen Ruddy, CEO, St. Baldrick's Foundation
February 17, 2012

The quick and unified action of the childhood cancer community — including thousands of messages to Congress from the St. Baldrick’s community — helped spur the immediate increase in production of methotrexate, a leading drug in the treatment of acute lymphoblstic leukemia (ALL), but the production increase of methotrexate is only a temporary solution – a drug shortage still looms for at least twelve drugs critical to the treatment of childhood cancer.

With many drugs commonly used to treat childhood cancers in short supply, “Physicians are forced to substitute drugs — drugs which may not be as effective and that may also have potential undesirable side effects,” said Jeff Lipton, MD, PhD, ASPHO President and Chair, St. Baldrick’s Foundation Scientific Advisors. “Treatment protocols are highly complex roadmaps and altering the path will not necessarily guarantee that you arrive at the desired destination.”

Members of Congress are paying attention, thanks to the thousands of messages sent by the St. Baldrick’s community and others concerned about kids with cancer. In a letter to the FDA, the co-chairs of the Congressional Childhood Cancer Caucus, Representatives Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) asked the FDA Commissioner about regulatory roadblocks that would prevent the development of a national reserve of select anti-cancer drugs for children, should current efforts to solve the drug shortage fail. The congressmen also asked about:

  • The availability of preservative-free methotrexate from foreign suppliers
  • FDA’s decision-making process for importing drugs from foreign suppliers
  • Status of applications to manufacture methotrexate or other life-saving injectable cancer drugs
  • Potential FDA actions to address the current emergency by providing a supply of methotrexate to hospitals caring for kids with cancer

The St. Baldrick’s community is speaking up for kids with cancer. If you have not yet acted, please follow this link to do so.

In service of our children,

Kathleen Ruddy
Executive Director
St. Baldrick’s Foundation