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Nationwide Cancer Drug Shortage Sparks Fear Among Parents, Doctors

LEHI, Utah — A nationwide shortage of a cancer-fighting drug has one Utah mother worried for her 6-year-old daughter, who was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago.

The shortage came after Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the two companies that makes the drug Vincristine, stopped production.

Vincristine enters the bloodstream, targets cancer cells and kills them, doctors said.

“We don’t know how to treat our kids because there’s no substitute,” Veronica Crowfoot said. “It’s not personal, but it feels personal. It’s my child.”

Crowfoot said they thought they might lose 6-year-old Hazel after her diagnosis two years ago.

“There was a time when we were told that we might only have 24 hours,” she said. “It is the most vital chemotherapy that she receives right now.”

Hazel said she likes to picture the cancer cells she’s fighting each month when she gets a vital dose of Vincristine.

“Those guys are very rude. They like to butt in the line,” the 6-year-old said. “Like, bam, it’s done. They’re like, ‘I’m outta here.'”

Dr. Richard Lemons with University of Utah Health and Primary Children’s Hospital said he and the Children’s Oncology Group, an organization supported by the National Cancer Institute, are very concerned.

“This is very frustrating,” he said. “Any drug shortage, particularly for parents of a child being treated with cancer, can cause tremendous anxiety.”

Lemons said they’re being proactive and monitoring supplies closely.

“We feel that we should be able to meet the needs of our patients until the new shipments arrive,” he said. But he also said the system has to change, and the group is advocating for it.

“They’re calling for national stockpiles of critical medicines,” Lemons said. “Not just for childhood cancer but for other diseases as well.”

In the meantime, Hazel, who is in remission, hopes to stay healthy.

Veronica Crowfoot said she doesn’t want other mothers to feel like this.

“This cannot happen again,” she said. “What are we going to do to make sure our kids’ lives aren’t put into jeopardy?”

Lemons said this is not the first time they’ve experienced a shortage of critical medicines. If you’re concerned, he recommended contacting the Food and Drug Administration at drugshortages@fda.hhs.gov, and elected officials to create change.

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