Take Charge

Critical Chemotherapy Drug is in Short Supply

October 18, 2019

Chemo Drug Shortage

By Sara Bondell

A critical childhood cancer drug called vincristine is currently in very short supply across the U.S. The sole supplier of the drug experienced a manufacturing delay, and while it expects production to ramp back up at the end of October, the shortage could last until December or January.

Dr. Damon Reed, medical oncologist.

“At the moment, it adds uncertainty and stress,” said medical oncologist Dr. Damon Reed. “When a shortage occurs, doctors may have to ration the supply or skip doses. For a therapy like vincristine that is used in more than half of newly diagnosed pediatric cancer patients, that will get very difficult.”

The shortage doesn’t just affect young cancer patients. Vincristine is also used to treat adults with multiple types of cancer, including leukemia, sarcomas and brain cancer.

“Vincristine forms the backbone of therapy for lymphoma and lymphoblastic leukemia,” said hematologist Dr. Bijal Shah.

There is no generic version of the drug that can be used, and any drugs that could be considered a substitute are either not as effective, safe or affordable as vincristine.

Moffitt’s Pharmacy Management team says it is evaluating its current supply and utilization, as well as reaching out for additional supply. For Moffitt patients currently being treated with vincristine, your medical team is monitoring the situation and will remain in communication with you about your treatment plan and options.