Local News

9-year-old leukemia patient: 'Am I going to die, Mommy?'

Posted February 16, 2012 8:53 p.m. EST
Updated February 16, 2012 10:54 p.m. EST

— Devon Murphy loves to play baseball, but when the 9-year-old didn’t feel well enough to take the field last year his parents took him to the doctor.

The Fuquay-Varina boy was diagnosed in November with acute lymphoblastic leukemia affecting the bone marrow. Doctors caught it early and if he keeps up with his treatments, he can beat it.

An important part of Devon’s treatment is the drug methotrexate, without it his mother, Wendy Murphy, fears he wouldn’t be cured.

“The methotrexate goes into the spinal fluid and keeps it from spreading,” she said.

Earlier this week, Devon saw a story on WRAL News about a nationwide shortage of the life-saving drug. Devon had a tough question for his mother.

“Am I going to die, Mommy?” Wendy Murphy said her son asked. “What do you say? I don’t have that answer for him.”

Days later and hours before a scheduled treatment at UNC Children's Hospital, a doctor called to cancel.

“Obviously, it has to do with the supply of methotrexate,” Devon’s father, Tim Murphy, said.

Tiffany Armstrong, executive director of the North Carolina Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, said the methotrexate shortage started when one of three manufacturers stopped production.

“That drug is part of a protocol that has saved an amazing amount of lives,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said in 1960, leukemia survival rates were around 4 percent. With the drug, it is closer to 90 percent, but hospitals cannot give out what they do not have.

“They are trying to ration what they have,” Wendy Murphy said.

Devon's treatment has been delayed.

“Devon is already nervous and scared and wants to be a normal boy again,” Wendy Murphy said.

Devon is among 500,000 patients affected by the shortage of 28 cancer drugs. The issue is due, in part, to a smaller profit margin, because many of the medications have become generic.