Talc powder shortage complicates lung disease treatment at hospitals

Clinicians are struggling to treat patients with a serious lung disease amid a sterile talc powder shortage, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Talc powder serves as a treatment for malignant pleural effusion, a lung condition often caused by lung or breast cancer in which fluid builds up around the lungs, resulting in chest pain or shortness of breath. Clinicians inject patients with a talc solution to make the lungs stick to the chest wall and prevent fluid buildup for months. Hospitals pay about $120 for a 30-gram container of talc.

Lymol Medical Corp. — the only talc supplier in the U.S. — faces dwindling supplies after the company's contract manufacturer suspended production due to an issue with one of the product components, Areta Kupchyk, Lymol's attorney, told WSJ.

Lymol has talc powder on long-term back order and cannot provide a date for the drug's availability, according to a report from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

The shortage is forcing clinicians to rely on riskier, less effective — and sometimes more expensive — treatments. Keith Naunheim, MD, a thoracic surgeon and professor at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, told WSJ he had to implant a catheter into a patient's chest to continually drain fluid since talc was not available.

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