Nationwide drug shortage impacts 3-year-old with rare, aggressive form of leukemia

Rowan Price's chemotherapy was pushed back

By Jessica Jewell - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - A 3-year-old Roanoke girl battling a rare, aggressive form of leukemia is now facing an unexpected challenge because of a drug shortage.

Nationwide, drugs used to treat childhood cancer are in short supply.

"Rowan is still being a trooper and a fighter," said Rowan’s mother, Mandy Price.

We introduced you to the Price family shortly after Rowan's life-changing diagnosis last month.

"You prepare yourself to come to the hospital, you prepare your family, you prepare your other children that we could be here for the long haul," Price said.

They reached an unexpected hurdle Friday, when Rowan's second round of treatment was pushed back.

"Rowan cried all the way here to the hospital ‘cause she didn't want to come back. She smiled when we said we got to go home, but then we had to go through that all over again yesterday," Price said.

Doctors couldn't get the aggressive drug needed to treat Rowan's high risk cancer because it's on back-order nationwide. Typically, doctors are well aware when there’s a shortage for a drug, but this time, they had no idea.

"The worst part about my job is obviously giving bad diagnoses, but the second worst part is having to give information like this," said Dr. Mandy Atkinson, Rowan’s pediatric oncologist at Carilion.

Atkinson said the delay didn't have much of a health impact, but it sheds light on a bigger problem.

"Drug companies have lost interest in making drugs that aren't needed very often and don't make good money for them," Atkinson said.

"It scared us and it worried us, but it also lit a fire in us," Price said.

The Price family has now made it their mission to spread awareness not only about this issue, but also about funding for childhood cancer research.

"The American Cancer Society, although they are wonderful, they only put one cent per dollar into our children and my child's worth a lot more than a penny," Price said.

Price said it’s another complication in an unbelievable journey that now includes searching for a donor for a bone marrow transplant. But the community that now dubs itself "Rowan strong" will not lose faith.

"We know that the odds are against her right now and that's scary, but I would never count her out," Atkinson said.

"There aren't any other options. We will get through this. It's going to be a long road, but we'll do it," Price said.

Atkinson said the Children's Oncology Group and Saint Baldrick's are two organizations that specifically fund childhood cancer.

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