Hospitals rationing immune disorder drug

Alia Paavola - Print  | 

A shortage of a drug used to treat immune disorders has forced U.S. hospitals and infusion clinics to ration it or suspend treatment for many patients who use it, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The medicine, immune globulin, is derived from human blood plasma. It is used to help patients with compromised immune systems fight infections. It also treats muscle and nerve disorders.

Recently, hospitals and clinics have been faced with shortages of the drug. Some facilities have stopped giving the drug to patients with diseases deemed to be non-life threatening and are saving the treatment for those who need it to stay alive.

Manufacturers of immune globulin, including Pfizer and Takeda Pharmaceuticals, say there has been more demand for the drug since it's been approved to treat more diseases.

And while drugmakers are working to boost the drug's production, supply issues have emerged. On a recent earnings call, Takeda said there have been delays in shipments for some of its immune globulin products. Pfizer told consumers in June they would receive minimal or no supply of its immune globulin treatment Octagam through July because of third-party manufacturing delays.

The shortage is being felt by hospitals nationwide, according to the Journal. In June, Cincinnati Children's Hospital notified the families of 150 patients that receive regular immune globulin infusions that they would suspend or reduce treatment for some of them in order to conserve supply for patients with life-threatening conditions.

"We're essentially rationing to the patients with the greatest need," Derek Wheeler, chief of staff at Cininatti Children's told the Journal. 

Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston has also canceled many infusion appointments since June because of the shortage. The hospital expects to receive less than half of its normal supply in the next few months, according to Paul Biddinger, MD, director of the hospital's center for disaster medicine. 

"For the patients affected, it's been very significant," Dr. Biddinger told the Journal. "It puts them at elevated risk of infection. It puts them with increased severity of symptoms."

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