Drug shortage hits patients battling cancer

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Doctors in Sheffield are trying to find alternative supplies of a vital drug used to treat bladder cancer - after a major global supplier recalled all stocks of the treatment.

Patients at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital have had their treatment cycles broken off after fears of contamination in stocks of the BCG drug - which is used to boost the immune systems of bladder cancer patients after surgery.

More than 47,000 doses of the drug have been recalled by Canadian supplier Sanofi Pasteur after concerns production at its Toronto factory were contaminated following a flood at the site last year.

Bladder cancer patient Danny Wild, aged 39, from Middlewood, said: “I am on a six-week cycle of BCG.

“Two days before I was due to go in for my third treatment they called and said they had run out of the stock.”

After Danny missed a week of treatment, doctors managed to get a small volume of an alternative drug for him to continue his regime.

But the father-of-two said: “I don’t think everyone will have been able to continue their treatment. They are prioritising.”

UK distributor Alliance Pharmaceuticals said Sanofi Pasteur had suspended production until late 2013.

Prof Mike Richmond, medical director at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “We have been informed by the supplier there is a temporary delay in supplying the drug BCG which is used to help prevent the recurrence of superficial bladder cancer.

“The drug is used in conjunction with close monitoring of the patient’s ongoing condition after initial intensive drug treatment or surgery has taken place.

“There are 11 patients at Sheffield affected and we have already contacted them all to review their situation and offer appropriate alternative treatment until the BCG drug is available again.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said they were trying to ensure patients were ‘affected as little as possible’.

“Doctors will discuss alternative treatments with affected patients to make sure each one receives the best and most appropriate care in their individual circumstances.”