Doctors Fret as Firm Stops Making Cancer Drug Pump

From the WebMD Archives

April 26, 2018 -- A life-extending drug pump for cancer patients will no longer be available because the manufacturer has decided to stop making it.

The Codman pump is implanted in the abdomen and sends high doses of chemotherapy directly into the liver for cancer that has spread there, typically from colorectal tumors, The New York Times reported.

A pump costs between $7,000 and $11,000 and is used in conjunction with intravenous chemotherapy.

The pumps are made by Cerenovus, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. In a letter dated April 4, the company told doctors that production of the pumps stopped on April 1 "because of significant and multiple raw material supply constraints within the manufacturing process," The Times reported.

Demand was "very low," with sales of about 300 pumps a year in the U.S., according to Cerenovus spokeswoman Mindy Tinsley.

"I don't know what we're going to do," Dr. Nancy Kemeny, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and a pioneer in using the pump, told The Times.

She said her hospital implanted 146 of the pumps last year, and more than 1,000 pumps overall.

"They've increased survival more than anything else in this disease," Kemeny said.

She said she and other doctors appealed to the company to keep making the pump, but it declined, The Times reported.

The Food and Drug Administration does not have the authority to force companies to sell a specific product, said agency spokeswoman Angela Stark.

A similar pump is made by Medtronic, but approved for use in the spine, not the liver. Kemeny said she hoped the Medtronic pump could be used in her patients, The Times reported.