Cancer Patients Face Chemo Crunch

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Monday, June 6, 2011 - 7:59am

Drug used to treat leukemia is in critically short supply.

Cancer patients are facing a critical nationwide shortage of a chemotherapy drug called Cytarabine.

Oncologists say they can successfully treat about 40-percent of patients with acute myeloid leukemia with Cytarabine when they combine it with other drugs.

Without it, they say the cure rate is zero.

"The shortages of Cytarabine have in my opinion affected life and death situations in the United States over the past six months," says Dr. Hagop Kantarjian of the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The Food and Drug Administration says the shortage has been so severe that there were several weeks earlier this year when there literally wasn't any Cytarabine in production.

"There were committees that had to make decisions to give the drug to one patient over another," says Dr. Kantarjian.

The three U.S. Companies that make the drug have cited manufacturing issues and have had to recall some of the medicine because of crystallization in the product.

Cytarabine is a generic drug and some experts point out it's uncommon for more profitable brand name drugs to be in short supply.

According to the FDA those companies are slowly resuming production.

The shortage extends to many other drugs as well, including electrolytes used in IVs.
 

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