Tampa mom fights to find life-saving prescription drugs in short supply

TAMPA, Fla. – Imagine needing a prescription drug to save your life, only to be told there is a shortage of it.

That’s what happened to Laura Bray after her daughter was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age nine.

“That was very difficult for me as a caregiver of my child when she asked me, you know, am I going to die because I don’t get my meds,” Bray said.

She was told that there was a shortage of two of the three prescription drugs her daughter needed and that she should actually move on.

That’s not how it works for a mother whose daughter is battling cancer.

Bray got to work, using her background as a corporate professor to lead the way.

“I used the knowledge I had in the supply chain to find the drugs to help my daughter,” Bray said.

She went back to base to find the medicines her daughter needed and started calling 1-800 numbers. She found that the lack of drugs usually boiled down to one aspect.

“It can be as small as communication,” Bray said. “We’ve helped with shortages where something happened where a phone number was changed in the ordering process or something changed in the ordering process and when the hospital goes to order the drug, the person on the other line picks up and says oh we’re not doing that have that.”

Laura Bray

She found the medicines her daughter needed, but knew there were so many other families like hers.

“Eventually I was haunted in the knowledge that the shortage was not over. There were still children waiting. There were still parents hearing the words I heard,” Bray said.

Thus, Angels for Change was born, a non-profit organization that helps families find the scarce medicines they need.

One of the helpers is Laura Davis in Pennsylvania. Her 15-year-old son was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January 2020.

“It came out of the blue,” Davis said. “Two days earlier, he was running five miles a day. He was working out. He was lifting weights. He was playing football. I was actually just coming out of a football season.”

She said she felt lost when she was told that the drug her son needed to survive was limited.

“I felt helpless, but I knew I would find it somehow, but I was confused. I didn’t know where to start,” Davis said.

A drug company put the two mothers together and helped Davis’ son get the medication he needed.

“We needed quite a few vials of the medication over 100 and we didn’t know if we would find it, but she really did. She found them all,” Davis said.

Again, in her case, finding the medication came down to communication. She said the drug company and Bray were working with the drug distribution company to find people who bought the drug but no longer needed it. They sold the drug back to the hospital, which in turn sold it, giving Davis’ son the treatment he needed.

He is still undergoing chemotherapy, but will return to school next week.

In the year and a half since its founding, Bray and her volunteer of angels, as she calls them, have helped 50 families around the world, but the work is far from over.

“Our next phase in Angels for Change is that we are already working within the pharmaceutical supply chain across our entire health system supply chain to proactively resolve shortages before they occur,” Bray said. “I believe in the goodness of people. I believe in the power of people working together when called into action to solve problems.”

Angels for Change is self-financed and runs solely on a volunteer basis. For more information click here.

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