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Concerns raised about shortage of children's cancer drug

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SALT LAKE CITY — A concern is growing for hospitals over the shortage of a childhood cancer drug in Utah.

The largest supplier for the drug methotrexate, which treats acute lymphoblastic leukemia by slowing the growth of cancer cells, closed last November, leaving many Utah locations with limited supplies of the drug. The shortage of supplies has Dr. Erin Fox, manager of Drug Information Services for the University of Utah, concerned.

"Lives are at stake," said Dr. Fox. "No hospital that I've heard of has actually run out of the product, but certainly people are in a panic."

In the meantime, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking other suppliers to speed up production of the drug to ensure hospitals do not go without.

Lives are at stake. No hospital that I've heard of has actually run out of the product, but certainly people are in a panic.

–Dr. Erin Fox

"Unfortunately, right now, demand is not meeting supply, so what FDA is doing, they are actually looking for some foreign supplies that could possibly be imported to help alleviate the shortage," Dr. Fox said.

Jared Cash, pharmacy manager for Primary Children's Medical Center, said they have not had any patients' care affected by the shortage at this time, but the shortage of the drug is "on their radar screen." Cash said they are working to develop national guidelines for a replacement through the Children's Oncology Group.

The Drug Information Center tracks shortages across the nation and lets pharmacies and doctors know when a drug will be available again, how to order it and if any alternatives are available. However, Dr. Fox said, there are sometimes no alternatives for cancer drugs.

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Mary Richards


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