NC families get good news about shortage of life-saving cancer drug vincristine

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Ayden Locklear and his family are getting good news about a nationwide shortage of the life-saving cancer drug vincristine.

Ayden is a 3-year-old who is getting treatment for lymphoblastic leukemia at UNC Children's Hospital in Chapel Hill.

It is one of the thousands of hospitals across the country dealing with a shortage of the drug.

Initially, the Locklear family was told that Ayden would no longer be receiving the drug.

"It took me back to a year ago when he was diagnosed," said Brittany Locklear, Ayden's mom. "To me it was just as bad of news as that day. Because, you know, your son he's in remission, he's fighting, he's doing well but now we can't give him the chemo that's keeping him in remission."

The Lumberton family is now being told that a new shipment of vincristine will be arriving soon and Ayden will be getting a new round of medicine on November 1.

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Vincristine is a tried-and-true regimen effective for treating many childhood cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma and brain tumors.

Doctors across the country have been rationing their supplies of the drug.

The shortage is especially frightening because there is no known drug available that is equally effective.

Pfizer, now the only supplier of the drug in the U.S., reported experiencing a shortage because of manufacturing delays.

Teva Pharmaceuticals made "a business decision" to stop supplying the medication in July 2019, according to the FDA.

Kelley Dougherty, vice president of corporate communications for Teva, told ABC News in a statement that the company "alerted the FDA of its decision to stop manufacturing vincristine in March 2019."

Pfizer told ABC News in a statement, "We are expediting additional shipments of this critical product over the next few weeks to support three to four times our typical production output."

Lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common childhood cancer, affecting about 3,000 children a year, most aged 2 to 5 years old.

It occurs when the bone marrow makes too many immature white blood cells. Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, easy bruising, bone pain, bleeding from the gums, swollen lymph nodes and frequent infections.

Children need to be treated quickly with chemotherapy once a diagnosis is made.

The FDA says on its webpage that it expects vincristine to start shipping by the end of October and supplies will reach recovery levels by January 2020.

"We are working closely with (Pfizer) and exploring all options to make sure this critical cancer drug is available for the patients who need it," the FDA said in a statement to ABC News.
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