Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Here's a change in health care laws that we'd all like to see Pelosi get behind

The Dallas Morning News has the story of how Nancy Pelosi pulled strings to get a top Democratic donor (the man who had helped pay for John Edwards' baby mama) access to an experimental cancer drug when his opportunity was blocked by the FDA. Sadly, the drug helped for only a few days, but he still died.

My complaint isn't that a powerful politician used her clout to help a donor. It is that such maneuvers are necessary for a dying man to get access to an experimental drug his doctor recommends because of government restrictions.
In 2002, Baron was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. By October 2008, his doctors at the Mayo Clinic were telling him he had just days to live.

They also offered a glimmer of hope. Over the years, the couple had donated about $1 million to Mayo. The staff was especially diligent, Blue said. They tested an arsenal of drugs and finally discovered that Baron's cancer responded surprisingly well, in the lab, to a drug called Tysabri.

Mayo had an ample supply, but the drug was – and still is – approved only for treatment of multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease. The manufacturer, Biogen Idec, refused to give permission, even under special "compassionate use" rules that protect a drug-maker from a black mark in case of an adverse outcome.

Biogen said it didn't want to jeopardize the drug's availability to other patients.
It is just bizarre that a man, days away from death, would be denied the opportunity to take a chance on a drug that has been approved for other diseases. Sure it's a risk, but let him sign something and go ahead with the experiment instead of leaving this all up to FDA bureaucrats.

Why should this man's ability to try a drug be dependent on his former donations to prominent politicians? And what about the rest of us who can't get the Speaker of the House to intercede for us?

Now that's a change in health care laws Pelosi would do well to get behind.