Why life-saving organ transplant drug was in short supply
NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s been 26 years since James Loxley underwent a life-saving kidney transplant after a donation from his father.
“I have been able to live life to the fullest with that transplant,” Loxley said.
It’s also when he began taking 25 milligrams of the drug Neoral, which is an immunosuppressant commonly used to prevent organ rejection after a transplant. The drug is imperative to the continued success of Loxley’s transplant, and when he suddenly couldn’t get ahold of it, he became concerned.
“The pharmacist said to me, ‘We have a situation going on. There’s a national shortage of this medication,'” his wife, Linda Loxley, recalled.
“I am scared,” her husband added. “If this medication [isn’t available], what is going to happen to the life-saving transplant that I received from my father?”
With the help of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the couple received an emergency supply of Neoral, though only enough to last James Loxley two weeks.
“I don’t want to lose him,” his wife said. “I am going to do everything in my power to get this medication for him because it is that important. He could die [without] it.”
The drug’s manufacturer, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, told Nexstar’s WPRI there is no longer a shortage of Neoral.
“There was a backorder of Novartis Neoral 25 milligrams earlier this year, but as of Feb. 16, it is available and no longer on backorder,” a company spokesperson said. “As this is so recent, there may be a lag in the market to get product backfilling the channel.”
That’s the case for James Loxley, whose pharmacy still has a limited supply.
“It’s essential,” Jeffrey Bratberg, a pharmacy professor at the University of Rhode Island said. “If you don’t tell the immune system to not reject the organ, you have a much higher likelihood of rejecting the organ.”
Bratberg said patients impacted by medication shortages should work closely with their prescribing doctor or pharmacist to discuss both short- and long-term solutions.
Generic medications may also be available in place of the brand-name drugs, Bratberg added.
James Loxley, meanwhile, said he doesn’t want to take chances with a generic medication, especially 26 successful years with Neoral.