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Worldwide chemotherapy shortage for bladder cancer patients

Published on 11/07/2012

A worldwide drug shortage means that hundreds of bladder cancer patients in the UK will be unable to access the most successful type of chemotherapy.

The drug known as BCG stimulates the immune system to fight bladder cancer. It is used to treat tumours without the need for invasive surgery, as well as reducing chances of tumours returning if they are removed.

BCG is used on around 6,000 patients a year according to the Daily Telegraph, and it can stop the cancer spreading indefinitely in more than half of them.

However, the manufacturer of BCG has halted its production of the drug after a flood hit its factory in Canada. The manufacturer says it is unlikely to start making the drug again until late in 2013. Another supplier is working to resolve the problem, but it will take time to step up its production.

Consequently, the British Association of Urological Surgeons has warned that many patients will have to undergo complete bladder removal to prevent the cancer from spreading. Adrian Joyce, consultant urologist and president of the Association, said:

“We are talking about an additional 100 to 200 of these operations a year.”

According to, 19 patients at Royal Derby Hospital with bladder cancer have already been unable to access the life-saving drug and are having to resort to less effective treatment methods.

This could include replacing BCG with regular check-ups in long-term cancer patients, or prescribing a less effective form of chemotherapy for those who have recently been diagnosed with the disease.

Royal Derby Hospital may save its limited supplies of BCG for those who have recently started on a course of chemotherapy.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the Government was working to make sure patients with or without health insurance are affected "as little as possible" by the shortage.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012

Categories:  Medical
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