more on the methotrexate shortage (and a short rant)

Methotrexate Teva 100mg_ml 1x50ml -pakning

Methotrexate Teva 100mg_ml 1x50ml -pakning (Photo credit: Haukeland universitetssjukehus)

I stumbled across this article from the Grey Lady via Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy on the critical need for more methotrexate. The article says, in part:

“This is dire,” said Valerie Jensen, associate director of the Food and Drug Administration’s drug shortages program. “Supplies are just not meeting demand.”

The drug is methotrexate, and the cancer it treats is known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or A.L.L., which most often strikes children ages 2 to 5. It is an unusually virulent cancer of white blood cells that are overproduced in bone marrow and invade other parts of the body.

The cancer commonly spreads to the lining of the spine and brain, and oncologists prevent this by injecting large quantities of preservative-free methotrexate directly into the spinal fluid. The preservative can cause paralysis when injected into the spinal column, so cannot be used for this disease. Methotrexate is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Ben Venue Laboratories was one of the nation’s largest suppliers of injectable preservative-free methotrexate, but the company voluntarily suspended operations at its plant in Bedford, Ohio, in November because of “significant manufacturing and quality concerns,” the company announced.

Since then, supplies of methotrexate have gradually dwindled to the point where oncologists now say they are fearful that shortfalls may occur at many hospitals within two weeks.

I’m not really sure what’s going on with the manufacturing of MTX. According to the FDA, several companies that make the injection form of the drug simply decided to stop making vials of certain sizes. I don’t know why and haven’t been to be able to find much information about it. I’m generally not a conspiracy theorist and tend to (want to) believe people will do the right thing, but there doesn’t seem to be much reason for creating a shortage of a drug that treats childhood cancer—and several autoimmune diseases.

Which brings me to my short rant. Just a post script for the N.Y. Times: Many of us are on methotrexate, and we don’t all have rheumatoid arthritis. We have lupus and psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis and so many other diseases. Maybe a better way to note that MTX doesn’t only treat cancer is to say that people with certain kinds of autoimmune conditions—like R.A.—also take the drug. Just saying.

2 thoughts on “more on the methotrexate shortage (and a short rant)

  1. There is no excuse for this shortage. While we “Arthritis” sufferers may be left to painful flare ups without the drug at least we won’t die, that can’t be said for the countless Cancer patients who depend on this drug as a lifeline. Interestingly Methotrexate is not the only Oncology drug in short supply at this time, there are several.

    Personally, I got the last 3 vials in stock at my pharmacy about a month ago and they basically told me they owe me the 4th vial on my prescription. Mine is with preservative 50mg vials, each lasts me approx 4 weeks so I am o.k. for now, but then what?

  2. I heard basically the same thing you said, but that the main manufacturer stopped making it because there was allegedly too much competition that made it cheaper. Admittedly, I don’t know much about this whole thing, but if there was so much competition, how can we now have a shortage? Someone needs to start manufacturing stat, because it is unacceptable for cancer patients to suffer. Like Deanna said, we RA patients can live without it, but oncology patients absolutely cannot gamble.

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