Updated: 19/05/17 : 02:49:39
Sligo University Hospital has been forced to postpone appointments for 17 patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment as a result of a shortage of the vital cancer drug in hospitals across the State.The Sligo patients, some of the worst affected, are part of up to 60 nationwide who have been told that their normal treatment appointments are being rescheduled because of the shortfall. Deliveries of the intravenous drugs are expected to resume next Tuesday.
Baxter Healthcare are the sole supplier of compounded chemotherapy drugs to Irish hospitals. They have admitted they are experiencing a “temporary supply constraint”.
A spokeswoman for the Sligo hospital said it had an internal drug compounding facility but this was closed until next Tuesday for essential maintenance.
"Due to the drug supply issue, the hospital has had to defer treatment for 17 patients. "Sligo University Hospital regrets the inconvenience and distress caused to patients and hopes to restore normal service next week."
The HSE described the problem as regrettable but said the vast majority of chemotherapy patients would not be affected.
It is the latest crisis to face Health Minister Simon Harris, who yesterday expressed hope that supplies would be restored early next week.
Receiving chemotherapy treatment
A spokesperson for Baxter Healthcare apologised to patients and doctors and said production was expected to resume next week. “We are working with other Baxter compounding units in the UK to identify if any extra capacity can be utilised, advising hospitals to identify alternative supply arrangements and working diligently to revalidate equipment, which is necessary to resume production.”Three-quarters of chemotherapy products are made at compounding units within hospitals. The rest are largely manufactured by Baxter, a US multinational that took over the only other supplier, the Irish-owned Fannin Compounding, in 2015.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission cleared Baxter’s acquisition of Fannin despite finding that it would result in a significant reduction in the commercial supply of chemotherapy products to hospitals in the State.