A Norwich hospital is among others across the country in predicting possible problems in treating patients who have types of early aggressive bladder cancer, due to a worldwide shortage.

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The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital says there is a shortage of the tuberculosis vaccine Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG). When suitable for use for early aggressive bladder cancer, it can mean that 70pc of those patients avoid having to have their bladder surgically removed.

Worldwide there are two manufacturers of BCG, with 80pc of the UK supply coming from a plant in France, which closed its factory abruptly in June, with production not expected to resume until the end of 2013.

This has resulted in a worldwide shortage and although the smaller producer is increasing production, it cannot meet the additional demand so far. The N&N has only obtained 8pc of the supply they have tried to obtain.

The N&N treats all the early aggressive bladder tumours for its local population, as well as most of the patients in Ipswich, and for the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn. This amounts to approximately 150 cases each year. Of these, around 30 have disease which would require their bladder to be removed in the absence of BCG treatment. The remaining patients would be given the option of either mitocycin treatment or having their bladder removed. The hospital estimates that around half will opt for surgery and whether the other half will need surgery will depend upon their response to their first course of mitocycin.

The N&N is planning to prioritise patients so that those most likely to benefit receive whatever BCG becomes available.

It is also exploring the option of obtaining BCG from Poland, and planning for possible additional operating and outpatient clinic time for its urology department.

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