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Batson Children's Hospital Faces Critical Cancer Drug Shorta

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Batson Children's Hospital Faces Critical Cancer Drug Shortage
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Dr. Andrew Ostrenga Holding Vincristine
Desare Frazier

A nationwide shortage of a critical pediatric cancer drug has doctors at Mississippi's Batson's Children Hospital working to put a contingency plan in place. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.

Dr. Anderson Collier who heads the Oncology Department at Mississippi's Batson's Children's Hospital is upset. A critical drug used to treat pediatric cancer called Vincristine is unavailable. Collier calls it a workhorse because of it's effectiveness when used with other drugs to treat almost all cancer patients from infant to age 18.

"And I have anxiety because I know that it's an anxious time for parents. They go through a lot as it is. They have a child with cancer. They're kid's getting chemo. Their life is not normal. To throw something like this on top of it is tough on the families," said Collier.

Collier says they have enough to treat patients for six to eight weeks because UMMC's Pharmacy heard rumblings a shortage was coming. Clinical Pharmacist Dr. Andrew Ostrenga.

"I talked to our medication buyers who do an incredible job of procuring drug. They were able to get some from our wholesaler then reach out to third party vendors as well to get some extra drug that we wouldn't have normally had," said Ostrenga.

Ostrenga says one of the two companies that produce the drug, Teva, stopped making it leaving only Pfizer to handle the demand. Dr. Collier says they've begun scheduling all patients who need the treatment on the same day to reduce waste. He's also working on a contingency plan that would reduce treatments if necessary.

"It will have some degree of a detrimental effect. We've used it for so long that I can't tell you what that effect will because we just do not know," said Collier.

Collier says Pfizer is working to ship the drug by the end of the month, but it's not known how much will be available. He is urging families and children's advocates to contact their representatives and the Food and Drug Administration to ensure this never happens again.