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Hospital ‘guardedly optimistic’ during cancer drug shortage

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - A cancer drug called Vincristine is in short supply, and that's leaving many families concerned.

"It is fundamentally important to curing children with many of the common cancers we see in children, the most common of these, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, we cannot cure without the use of Vincristine," said Dr. William Meyer, chief of pediatric hematology-oncology at the OU Children's Hospital.

It's also important to the people who took time to sign a petition that is going around the internet, calling on the government to step in.

The Children's Oncology Group put out a letter with recommendations on what doctors can do.

"We've taken several steps. We've looked at what our present supply is, we've reached out to all the suppliers, we have very carefully evaluated our patient population who will need this drug over the next month," Meyer said.

He says the Children's Hospital should have enough supply for the next month.

Right now, only one company, Pfizer, makes Vincristine. In a statement, they say, "We have scaled up production to fully meet the need for Vincristine over the long term. we have also expedited additional shipments of Vincristine, which are now in transit to healthcare providers so they can treat patients."

"We are guardedly optimistic that we will have enough drug," Meyer said.

Drug company Teva stopped making the drug in March because of what they call a lack of demand. They say in a statement, "With the data that was available, there was no indication of a possibility of a shortage if the company left the market and availability of Teva product has not contributed to the shortage that is being experienced today."

Going forward, this is something experts don't want to ever see happen in the future.

"One of the things that has been suggested is we create a stockpile of some of these critically needed drugs so if there are problems from the manufacturing standpoint, we have a supply that we have put away and saved to meet these what are usually short term shortages," Meyer said.

There is no alternative drug to Vincristine.  According to the FDA, the next expected delivery is the end of the month.

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