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