On January 24th, 2019 the Department of Urology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center was notified that the national supply of TICE BCG was in jeopardy due to a combination of inadequate production and an increase in clinical utilization. It is our understanding that Merck Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of BCG, is working to address this shortage. We realize this has created a significant problem for patients facing treatment for high risk non-muscle invasive bladder cancer. As a center of excellence in the treatment of bladder cancer we are particularly concerned with this national medical emergency. While there is no standard approach for alternative therapies in this setting, we have formulated a strategy that we will employ during this BCG crisis.
If we receive any BCG from our distributor in the near future, we will prioritize treating patients that require a 6-week induction course for non-muscle invasive disease. To further mitigate this shortage, we will be administering 1/3 strength instead of full strength BCG, which is supported by clinical trials. Patients receiving maintenance BCG will not receive therapy until further notice.
If patients are able to obtain BCG on their own from a local pharmacy, we will treat them when we receive their BCG. If you would like information or a prescription to pursue BCG from an outside pharmacy, we will provide this for you.
If no BCG is available for your treatment you have the option of undergoing close surveillance only or receive another form of intravesical chemotherapy. At this time, we have access to several varieties intravesical chemotherapy that are effective in treating bladder cancer. To determine which of these alternative options may be most applicable to your situation please discuss with your treating physician.
For further information regarding this national medical shortage and what you can do to help please see the Bladder Advocacy Network website at www.BCAN.org . You can also contact Merck Pharmaceuticals directly via their customer service department at 1-800-444-2080 or read their statement at: www.merck.com