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Teva Pharmaceuticals has done an about-face and will resume production of its generic chemotherapy drug vincristine, which has been described as a “lynchpin” in the treatment of many childhood cancers. The company discontinued development earlier this year, but a shortage prompted the reversal.

Teva made the announcement Wednesday regarding its reversal. When the company discontinued the manufacture earlier this year, Pfizer was left as the only drug manufacturer making the medication that is used to treat leukemias, lymphomas and even brain tumors. Pfizer makes the branded version of the drug. Following Teva’s decision to pull away from the manufacture of vincristine, doctors described the decline in the amounts of the chemotherapy medication as a nightmare situation for treating childhood cancers. Dr. Yoram Unguru, a pediatric oncologist at the Herman and Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore told the New York Times in October that vincristine is the “bread and butter” of treatments for childhood cancers. There was a concern that doctors would begin having to make decisions on how to treat patients due to the decline of available amounts of vincristine.

That backlash against Teva’s decision prompted the Israel-based company’s reversal. Teva said that because vincristine is such an important drug and there is no “reliable single supply anticipated in the near term,” that is decided to reintroduce the manufacture of the medication. The company will once again make the product, but not until 2020. Teva said it will manufacture the drug at its facility in the United States, which provides the fastest route to market.

Teva said when it made the decision to remove vincristine from the market earlier this year, there was no indication of a potential shortage. The company said it was only supplying about 3% of the supply of the chemotherapy drug. Teva added that it assumed that Pfizer, which was manufacturing the branded version of the drug, could absorb the small reduction in supply.

Last month Pfizer said it intended to expedite more shipments of its branded drug in order to meet the demand from doctors.

Teva is the largest generic drugmaker in the world but, like most other generic drugmakers, has seen a decline in its market share. Earlier this year, the company said the generics market was forcing it to make a decision to shift a significant portion of its resources to the more lucrative biologics market. As BioSpace reported earlier this year, Teva plans to shift some of its energies away from generics to branded medications, including the “higher-margin biologics.” Chief Executive Officer Kare Schultz predicted that with the shift, about half of the company’s revenues will eventually come from biologics.



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