Child patients hit by drug shortage

Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands.

Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands.


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.


Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 9 months ago

What else is new?! There are many 'true' Bahamian mothers and fathers who have experienced countless instances of their young children not receiving vital medications because of serious shortages caused by our public healthcare system simply being overwhelmed by illegal aliens.

geostorm 4 years, 9 months ago

@well_mudda, yes the illegal alien situation is a vexing one, but for goodness sake, when you spew your nonsense, can you at least make sure that there is truth to it.

Medication shortages are not because of an overwhelming illegal alien situation!

Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 8 months ago

Right! And I suppose the 40+ students to a single teacher in the average classroom in our public education system is also not due to the overwhelming numbers of children of Haitian nationals who have illegally entered our country.

The_Oracle 4 years, 8 months ago

Medical supply shortages in the Public health system are due to accounts payable to vendors running beyond 90 days. Since the 1970's Lands and Surveys had no complete maps of any island because the vendor would hold out sections of each island pending payment in full. Can you blame them? And this illustrates a critical piece of Free Healthcare: to give away for free what must be paid for is a recipe for permanent shortages.

Well_mudda_take_sic 4 years, 8 months ago

Our public healthcare system simply does not have the financial resources necessary to fund the high cost of important and vital medications for Bahamians and illegal Haitian aliens alike. And the U.N. Human Rights Council, Rights Bahamas and other similar organizations are not prepared or willing to pony up the financial resources needed to cover the enormous deficiency in available funds for such medications. That's the bottom line on this problem.

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