Company to re-launch production of childhood cancer drug

Published: Nov. 13, 2019 at 3:03 PM CST
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Pediatric cancer patients, families, and doctors are cheering news a pharmaceutical company plans to re-launch production of a drug crucial in many childhood cancer treatment plans.

Teva Pharmaceuticals announced Wednesday that it will reintroduce vincristine to its product line. They plan to have it available for patients "as early in 202 as possible."

"Because vincristine is such a lifesaving medicine – and there is no reliable single supply anticipated in the near term – we have decided to re-introduce the product and plan to manufacture it in our plant in the U.S., which provides the fastest route to market," the company's statement read.

Word of Teva's decision quickly circulated among pediatric cancer advocates on social media.

"Today is a win!" Fourth and Gold LLC posted on its Facebook page. "Thank you to everyone who helped put pressure on them to overlook the "lack of profit" and focus on children's lives!"

One parent posted, "PSA: Don't mess with the cancer moms!"

Teva stopped producing vincristine in July. The decision left Pfizer as the sole manufacturer. Pfizer ramped up production, but the FDA posted alerts of a shortage of the drug.

With the drug in short supply, some hospitals altered patients' treatment plans, reserving vincristine for patients in active treatment, and delaying or altering treatments for those in maintenance phases. Topeka's Cotton O'Neil Cancer Center did not have to take the step, but had plans in place should the shortage continue into December.

By late October, Pfizer announced it was putting out additional shipments, and expected to meet demand.

Teva said did not take its initial decision to discontinue vincristine lightly.

"When Teva removed vincristine from the market earlier this year there was no indication at all of a possible shortage," they said in Wednesday's statement. "In fact, the company was only supplying 3% of the market and, without any information to the contrary, anticipated that that volume could quickly and easily be absorbed by the brand manufacturer, which was supplying the other 97%."