The Rapid Race to Recover Quantities of a Vital Chemotherapy Drug, Vincristine

Esha Brar

       Many doctors and scientists are extremely concerned with a recent lack of a critical chemotherapy necessary for treating those children who have cancer. This drug is extremely vital for curing many cancers, such as leukemias, lymphomas, and brain tumors, and with a sudden lack of this drug, many doctors have involuntarily been reducing quantities of this drug to patients to conserve use. Although there has always been frequent shortages of certain drugs in the United States, the lack of this specific medication, known as vincristine, is truly concerning and poses a great deal of pressure on doctors and scientists to find another substitute for this drug, which has not been found yet. 

    Dr. Yoram Unguru, an oncologist at the Herman and Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore explained the severity of the situation, stating how many felt that vincristine acted like water, a necessity for humans, as well as “bread and butter.” Unguru went on to explain how it was impossible without vincristine to treat any childhood disease, as most of these diseases need vincristine in order to further subdue. Unguru explains how with a lack of vincristine, potentially detrimental steps might have to be taken, such as skipping dosages, or giving lower doses than what is truly necessary. It is evident that doctors are pressed with an extremely hard decision of giving dosages of vincristine, and have to carefully analyze a patient’s necessity of the drug.  

      Although vincristine is a widely used drug, it is most commonly used as a drug to manage lymphoblastic leukemia, which is the most common childhood cancer. Vincristine also acts in the curing of Wilms tumor, a kidney cancer that also affects children. Although many children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia can still be cured and sustained without the total necessary dosage of the drug, the subduing of the disease is still extremely hard, especially with a lack of vincristine. 

     Many cancer centers and hospitals all around the country have started to join forces and had started to come up with temporary lengths in order to conserve vincristine, such as reducing the clinical trial protocols of vincristine, continuing to monitor the hospital’s  supply of vincristine, starting to initiative half dosing of the drug, and in some rare cases, not utilizing the drug at all. 

      Doctors are hopeful that the back orders of vincristine are resolved, and that children all across the world can get the correct dosage that they deserve and are entitled to. For now, all we can do is hope, and let the scientists do their work in finding a substitute for vincristine in the meantime.