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Cancer drugs in short supply: FDA working to increase production


POSTED: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 7:45pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 7:49pm

Federal regulators say two cancer drugs that have been in critically short supply will soon be available.

It's welcome news to patients nationwide who've been forced to wait for life-saving treatments.

An ovarian cancer patient since 2003, Jill Cancelliere relies on a medication called "Doxil."

Earlier this year her nurse called her with news of a nationwide shortage of the drug.

It meant she wouldn't be able to get her treatment.

The primary manufacturer of Doxil, based in Ohio, had to shut down temporarily late last year after the FDA expressed safety concerns at the plant.

Doctors were left with few options.

"It's one of the most important drugs that we have. We have people that need it and people that are on it and people that well maybe this is their last hope. So how do you make those decisions?" says Dr. Robert DeBernardo.

On Tuesday the FDA announced much-needed relief for the Doxil shortage.

The U.S. will begin importing a replacement drug from a company in India.

"We believe we will be able to meet the needs of patients on a continuing basis, and this should resolve the shortage," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg.

The FDA also outlined plans to ease shortages of "Methotrexate" which was also made at the Ohio plant.

It's used to treat bone cancer and acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children.

Pharmaceutical company Hospira has begun shipping thousands of Methotrexate vials to hospitals nationwide.

It'll help 10-year-old Olivia Coontz, relying on Methotrexate to battle her bone cancer.

"First thing you think about when you have this is, if you're gonna die or not. But, I've been here a long time, and I think I can do it," she says.

The FDA also approved APP Pharmaceuticals to produce a preservative-free generic version of Methotrexate for children to use.

That drug will be available in March.

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