Parents of children with cancer concerned over drug shortage

Updated: Oct. 16, 2019 at 10:36 PM EDT
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HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) - It is easy to see, as mom, dad, and twin boys play catch on a cool fall day in Huntersville - life is good in the Evans family front yard.

What cannot be seen, is that five-year-old Easton Evans is in maintenance treatments for leukemia, including an injection called Vincristine.

“It keeps the cancer cells from splitting,” his mom Jessica Evans says.

Vincristine is a widely used drug for most childhood cancer patients, like Easton.

“Everyone should be able to get it, no matter what,” his mom says.

But recently, there is concern in her community of parents over what may become of a new shortage. The Children’s Oncology Group published a letter to the childhood cancer community Wednesday, in which it, in part, called the situation ‘unacceptable’.

Two companies produced Vincristine – Teva, and Pfizer. But in July, Teva pulled out, calling it a “business decision.”

“I honestly would love to look them in the face,” Evans says. “Just because yeah, it may not be making money, but it’s working. It’s been proven to work, and it saves lives.”

Now, Pfizer is having trouble picking up the rest of demand.

“Due to a competitor’s outage, we are expediting additional shipments of this critical product over the next few weeks to support three to four times our typical production output,” a Pfizer spokesperson told WBTV Wednesday.

“It just adds another thing we have to worry about, when we as parents should not ever have to worry about it,” Evans says.

Though Pfizer says supply should be fully restored by January, parents like Evans say there is uncertainty from their seat.

“This just makes us angry, very angry and sad and scared,” Evans says. “Even the moms who have children that are done with treatment are still part of it, and they’re mad. Just for future kids and kids going through it right now.”

Charlotte hospitals says they are not doing anything differently as of now – they have ample supplies themselves that should tide them over.

In a statement Wednesday, an FDA spokesperson told WBTV it is “exploring all options” to make sure the drug is available for whoever needs it.

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