By Sharon Stevens
St. Louis (KSDK) - There is a major shortage of a drug used to battle bladder cancer in the United States and tuberculoses overseas.
It's called BCG; those are the first letters in the last names of the three French people who developed the drug. The shortage has some patients worried.
Only two companies make BCG: French-based Sanofi Pasteur needs approval on a final test from the Food and Drug Administration.
Because of that, Merck, in America, says it can't keep up with demand.
Marcia Hecker's husband Fred was diagnosed with bladder cancer three years ago.
Fred had four surgeries and then started taking the chemotherapy drug BCG. Marcia says he responded exceptionally well to BCG.
Now, he can't get it.
Fred wasn't up to talking with us so Marcia filled us in.
"I'm scared. I lie awake at night and I wonder, what's going to happen? What happens if my husband can't continue his chemotherapy," she said.
Pharmacies and hospitals have other drugs but they ran out of BCG because they can't get it from the manufacturers, and no one knows or is saying when that will change.
Experts say this is just one small part of a very large problem.
"We're currently in the midst of an absolute national disaster as far as drug shortages go," said James Gray, Director of the Pharmacy at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Gray says about eleven percent of the drug shortages affect cancer patients.
But people with other illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes, are at risk too.
James Gray says there are alternative therapies for some patients who can't get BCG.
A spokesperson for MERCK says while there's still no distribution date, they do have a hotline. The number is 1-800-672-6372.