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National Leukemia Drug Shortage Hits Home for New Lenox Family

Residents Laura and Alan Bakotic recently learned that methotrexate, the medicine used to treat their 10-year-old daughter's leukemia, is in short supply just two months before her next treatment.

About a year ago, New Lenox resident Anna Bakotic, 10, was diagnosed with leukemia. She lost weight, lost her hair and slept for days on end. She’s still sick today, but recovering.

But the New Lenox student’s parents, Laura and Alan Bakotic, recently learned that the medicine used to treat her leukemia is in short supply, just two months before her next treatment.

According the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there’s a shortage of the injection drug methotrexate, which treats the most common form of childhood leukemia, because the five pharmaceutical companies that manufacture it have slowed or stopped its production.

“It’s paining,” Alan Bakotic said. “It’s a dangerous disease, and if they take the drug off the shelf there’s no substitute for it.”

The Bakotics are joining other concerned parents and politicians to get the companies to increase production of the life-saving medicine. Their daughter, Anna, was diagnosed with leukemia in March 2011, and has since had 17 spinal tap injections of methotrexate, which slows the growth of cancer cells. According to the National Cancer Institute, 80 percent of children are successfully treated.

Anna gets two injections every 85 days, and she needs at least six more doses. Her next appointment is in two months, but the Bakotics don’t have any guarantee the medicine will be available by then.

“The hospital said their pharmacist is working on it and they’ll notify the parents,” Laura Bakotic said. “We don’t know how it’s going to play out, so we’re just trying to raise awareness. There’s no reassurance.”

Following the interview, the FDA announced it was “cautiously optimistic” that the shortage could be averted. At least three of the companies are planning large increases in production, including the Lake Forest-based Hospira Inc.

"Hospira is working urgently to help resolve the methotrexate shortage,” Hospira President Thomas Moore said in a news release. "Hospira is committed to helping address the supply gap for this key medication."

In October 2011, President Barack Obama issued an executive order aimed at preventing drug shortages, primarily through the FDA requiring manufacturers to report any anticipated shortages or discontinued products six months ahead of the shortage. The parents are also supporting the Drug Shortage Prevention Act of 2012, which would take steps to hold accountable the manufacturers and make sure critical drugs are in supply.

The parents have documented Anna’s treatment on Facebook and the CaringBridge website Anna’s Journey to the Cure by posting photos over the last year.

"You can see what the drugs do and where she comes from," Alan Bakotic said, pointing out how much healthier Anna is now. "We certainly don’t want to go back."

What You Can Do

Support Anna at her Journey to the Cure website. Read here for more information.

The Bakotics are also trying to get others to contact the manufacturers of the drug to make sure it's always in supply. Here's the contact information:

  • APP Customer Service: 1-888-386-1300
    1501 E. Woodfield Road, Suite 300 East
    Schaumburg IL 60173
  • Hospira Inc. Customer Service: 1-877-946-7747
    275 N. Field Drive
    Lake Forest, IL 60045
  • Mylan Institutional 1-888-258-4199
    1500 Corporate Drive
    Canonsburg, PA 15317
  • Sandoz Customer Service 1-609-627-8500
    506 Carnegie Center, Suite 400
    Princeton, NJ 08540
alski February 22, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Very sad but true. I heard the same explanation from a pharmaceutical rep being interviewed on a talk radio show a few weeks back. It's all about the "almighty dollar" No company wants to manufacture a drug that is used by few and not on a daily basis. How do they sleep at night ?
alski February 22, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Drug companies should be more like the famous Dr.Jonas Salk. When he discovered the Polio vaccine others working in the same field commented how rich he was going to be from making the find. He literally "gave" it to the world. Free of charge. Here's what he had to say during an interview. ( When news of the vaccine's success was made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was hailed as a "miracle worker", and the day "almost became a national holiday." His sole focus had been to develop a safe and effective vaccine as rapidly as possible, with no interest in personal profit. When he was asked in a televised interview who owned the patent to the vaccine, Salk replied: "There is no patent. Could you patent the sun? )
alski February 22, 2012 at 07:53 PM
The manufacturers of this medication need to get their priorities straight. They all need see the pictures above and not some annual financial report when gauging whether or not to run production of a particular drug. They are what displays "importance" Looking good Anna !! "You keep on keepin on"!!!
Alan Bakotic February 23, 2012 at 12:02 AM
Thanks to all of our family, friends, & neighbors who contacted their Congressional representatives, officials at the FDA, & all four drug manufacturers. To all the Oncology teams, who are trying their best to manage the drug shortages. Children with Leukemia are more optimistic about their future than they were a week ago. A short term solution to a much larger problem is in place today as the FDA approved the import of Methotrexate (MTX) from the Australian branch of Hospira, Inc. and approved an application from pharmaceutical company, APP, to begin manufacturing preservative-free MTX in the U.S. However, as noted in the New York Times, Dr. Peter C. Adamson, chairman of the Children’s Oncology Group said he was pleased that the immediate threat of a Methotrexate shortage had passed. “But this is at best a Band-Aid approach to the problem.” Pediatric drug shortages should never be a threat. Children with Leukemia are already suffering enough as it is. It is extremely challenging & stressful for families to deal with the leukemia itself, let alone face the fears and added frustration of now having to deal with impending drug shortages. No child should have to succumb to this disease due to a drug shortage, something that can be and more importantly, should be prevented. While the Methotrexate drug shortage has been resolved, at least temporarily, the larger issue still remains of how do we prevent this from happening again? Sincerely, The Bakotic Family
NL Patch Fan February 23, 2012 at 06:11 AM
I will make a call tomorrow. I think if we all join together and make a call it can make a difference. If there is an email that I could send a letter to please let me know. My best to your family.

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