SC family concerned chemo drug shortage may cause 5-year-old son to relapse

South Carolina News

GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – An Upstate family tells 7News they worry a drug shortage could cause their 5-year-old battling Leukemia to relapse.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, there’s a shortage of a chemotherapy drug known as Vincristine. Physicians say the drug is a critical medication used to treat most childhood cancers.

The FDA says a delay in production caused the shortage and it could be weeks before a new shipment is distributed.

On Thursday, Jack Williams and his little brother Braden were getting into the Halloween spirit by painting pumpkins in the kitchen.

The 5-year-old has been battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia since he was 2-years-old.

Jack’s mother, Mimi Williams, says the day he was diagnosed she didn’t know if he would make it through the night.

“He was given I think 14 units of blood and 11 units of platelets just to survive,” she said.

But Jack’s near the end of a 40-month treatment plan.

“We are about 10 months out from hopefully finishing this and not relapsing,” Williams said.

On Wednesday, she read a newsletter from the Children’s Oncology Group. In it, the chairman addressed the Vincristine shortage plaguing the country.

Williams says Vincristine is one of the main drugs used in Jack’s treatment.

“How are we supposed to keep our kids alive when we don’t even have the drug to give them,” Williams told our sister station, WSPA.

“That is what helps keep some of these children, young men and women, in remission. That is part of their cure,” said Dr. Robert Siegel, the Oncology Program Director at Bon Secours St. Francis Cancer Center.

Dr. Siegel says Vincristine is commonly used as part of a multi-drug cancer treatment.

“Vincristine is also critically important in getting people into remission,” he said. “Not just maintaining remission.”

He says even one missed dose could be dangerous.

“I am concerned we are going to see a relapse happen where we haven’t seen them before,” Siegel said.

Williams says Jack’s doctors couldn’t say if her son will get his next treatment and that’s not what any parent wants to hear.

“All I can think is he is going to relapse,” she said. “That it’s going to come back because we can’t give him what he needs.”

WSPA did reach out to the PRISMA Health Children’s Hospital. A spokesperson said they have no comment about the shortage at this time.

In the US, Pfizer is the only company that produces the drug. They did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

A spokesperson for the FDA sent a statement to WSPA saying, “We are working closely with them and exploring all options to make sure this critical cancer drug is available for the patients who need it.”

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