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Nationwide pediatric cancer drug shortages felt at Roswell Park, Oishei Children's

Chris Caya
A shortage of pediatric cancer drugs is impacting Oishei Children's Hospital.

Cancer treatment centers around the nation are experiencing critical shortages of vital pediatric cancer drugs, that impact is being felt at Buffalo’s Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Pediatric oncologist Dr. Kara Kelly, the chair of Roswell Park Oishei Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Program, said federal regulators have ramped up restrictions on medications made outside the United State, which is a factor in the shortages.

“The FDA has rightfully said that these drugs should be held to the same standard as drugs manufactured within the U.S.,” said Kelly. “But there were challenges in ensuring there was adequate inspection of those overseas plants and adopting some of those new regulations. So that was when the major uptick in drug shortages occurred.”

Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva made what it calls a “business decision” to stop producing Vincristine, a drug popular for use against childhood Leukemia.

Erwinaze is a last resort Leukemia drug used on children allergic to other medications. Kelly said it, too, is in short supply as its sole manufacturer, in the UK, faces issues in production

“When you have only one company in the world that’s producing the drug and they have some manufacturing problems, there’s no backup,” Kelly said. “And that’s the situation that we got into this year is that the company could just not keep up when they had some manufacturing issues.”

Kelly is hopeful with intervention from lawmakers and the Department of Health and Human Services, shortages can at least be planned for.

Ryan Zunner joined WBFO in the summer of 2018 as an intern, before working his way up to reporter the following summer.