Public Hospitals Face Shortage Of Critical Medication For Rare Pediatric Cancers

With no prior notice, the Temer administration relayed procuring responsibilities from the federal government to the hospitals

Cláudia Collucci
São Paulo

At the twilight of Michel Temer's term, the Ministry of Health last year stopped procuring an imported chemotherapy drug that is an essential part of the treatment of five rare cancers that target mostly children and with no prior notice transferred that responsibility to the cancer hospitals from the public system. There are no domestic alternatives to the medication.

With no time or resources to deploy an emergency purchase, some hospitals are facing a shortage of the medication, called dactinomycin, and at least 5,000 patients are at risk of having their life-saving treatments interrupted.

Young patient at one of Brazil's public cancer hospitals - Folhapress

Among the tumors treated with the medication is Ewing Sarcoma, the second most common among children and teenagers.

The Ministry of Health's decision is dated from December 7th, but with the holidays and government transitions at both state and federal level, many hospitals were only aware of the change in directives earlier this month.

According to Leonardo Vilela, president of the National Council of State Health Secretaries, such an abrupt change makes it impossible for hospitals, especially the public ones, to procure the drug in short notice.

On December 20th, Vilela sent a memo to the Ministry of Health suggesting a transition period to the department but received no answer from either the prior administration or the current one.

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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