A drug used to treat the most common cancer in children is in short supply across the country. Impact is being felt in South Florida.
4-year-old Nathalie Megie of Pembroke Pines was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) last April.
”It was devastating. I thought she was going to die," said her mother, Carol Megie. "It was really hard."
Nathalie is being treated at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital with a drug that’s injected into her spine.
The treatment is "one of the main reasons why leukemia has become a treatable and curable
disease in most children,” said her oncologist, Dr. Brian Cauff.
“Without this medication, there's potential down the road for these patients not to survive and have increased mortality,” added hospital pharmacist Michael Bracchi.
The drug is preservative-free methotrexate, and it’s in critically short supply.
The main manufacturer had to stop making it for safety reasons. And the others cannot keep up with demand.
“The doctors here have told me they have it here at this hospital, so that's a good thing. But there are some hospitals upstate, I'm not sure, that they don't have the medication and that worries me,” Megie said.
Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital is part of the Memorial Health System, which has six hospitals.
“So we're able to leverage some of the distributors to allocate us sufficient supply,” Bracchi said.
He also pointed out stand-alone hospitals are having a tougher time.
“We have been receiving calls through the region from all the hospitals inquiring if we have any additional supplies," he said.
There are strategies in place to make their methotrexate last as long as possible.
“We are doing a good job of holding on to what we have and using it as responsibly as we can," Cauff explained. "When it runs out, it runs out and that's nationwide."
Nathalie is scheduled for her dose of methotrexate next week. She will need treatment for the next two years.
ALL usually strikes children between the ages of 2 and 5. Methotrexate is also used to treat osteosarcoma, a bone cancer in children.
Doctors are urging people to contact their legislators to ensure supplies of this medication do not continue to dwindle.
Jackson Memorial Hospital said in an email that it currently has some supply on hand, but no one was available to speak on this matter.
Miami Children's Hospital said in an email that currently it has a sufficent supply for patients in treatment and is working to ensure it's preparted to meet the needs of new patients.