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N4T Investigators: Cancer Drug Shortage

5 years 1 month ago #48003 by AnneH
BCG Shortage in the News

After a cancer patient couldn't get access to a potentially life-saving drug, he called the News 4 Tucson Investigators to try to find out why. Investigative Reporter Marisa Mendelson found out his medication is part of a world-wide shortage.

BCG is used to treat bladder cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, BCG likely works by stimulating the body's immune system. Studies also show that BCG helps delay tumor recurrence and progression in bladder cancer patients. However, the medication can of course only be helpful if it's in stock.

Forrest Carr is an author who is currently working on the finishing touches of his third novel. As he works on typing out those final pages of his book, he's also dealing with his own real life drama that he wishes was fiction.

In December of 2013 Forrest's doctor diagnosed him with kidney cancer, which quickly spread to his bladder.

"We had to do basically three surgeries last year," said Forrest. "One to remove my cancerous kidney and then another one to catch it in my bladder and then it came back in my bladder six months later so then we needed another surgery after that."

Luckily Forrest is now in remission. And to help keep his bladder cancer from coming back, Forrest's doctor recommended a treatment called BCG. However, when Forrest went in for his first treatment, his doctor said BCG was on back-order.

"Basically that's why I called you, to see if you can figure out what's causing this delay and if there is anything that can be done about it," said Forrest.

After doing some research, News 4 Tucson found out a company called Merck became the sole distributor of BCG in 2012. That happened after the FDA claimed another distributor didn't comply "with good manufacturing practices."

A spokesperson from Merck told News 4 Tucson that since it became the only global distributor of BCG, demand has increased substantially and that has created backorders. Merck says it anticipates continued backorders through 2015. However, the spokesperson says if your doctor places an order for BCG, it should take four weeks to receive it.

"Every moment you wait without the treatment it increases the risk that the cancer could come back," said Forrest.

As Forrest continues to wait for his first treatment of BCG, he hopes it comes soon, so he can close this chapter of his life and start a new one.

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