Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands.
By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE worldwide shortage of the drug vincristine, which is used to treat cancer among children and teens, had an impact on local treatment, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said yesterday.
“The particular drug of concern is the drug called vincristine which is a very important drug in the treatment of childhood leukaemia. So just as they’re struggling to find vincristine in the United States and elsewhere, we’re struggling to find it here. So yes, it has an impact on the treatment of leukaemia,” he said.
“We will have to do the best that we can in order to try and find it but hospitals all over the world are struggling because a number of manufacturers that use to make vincristine no longer make it and so now it is in very short supply.”
When asked how many Bahamians may be affected, Dr Sands said while the numbers may not be large, even one patient is too many.
He said: “This is a problem but it’s the same problem you would have if you were in Miami, New York, if you were in Houston, if you were in London because a number of the major manufacturers no longer make the drug and so it is difficult to get anywhere.”
Vincristine is a chemotherapy drug that belongs to a group of drugs called vinca alkaloids. It works by stopping cancer cells from separating into two new cells, in essence stopping the growth of cancer.
Earlier this month, one US doctor referred to the situation as a nightmare.
“This is truly a nightmare situation,” Dr Yoram Unguru, a paediatric oncologist told the New York Times. “Vincristine is our water. It’s our bread and butter. I can’t think of a disease in childhood cancer that doesn’t use vincristine.”
It was later reported that the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) said deliveries of the drug are expected to resume by late October, however the shortage could continue until at least December.