Bonnie over at The Fragile X Files shared an article from the Seattle Times, The mining of rare diseases, and her thoughts about it. I have so many thoughts right now that I am having trouble teasing them apart. I guess I can start here, with this from her blog post:
But we, the parents of children with rare diseases, have no other option but to trust the drug companies, the doctors working for them, and the trial results we are presented with. We are constantly shown how far medical research has come in the past couple of decades, how much more we know about the body and how it works, and how it gives us real hope for our kids’ futures. We grab that dangling vine of hope and scramble to ascend it, to save our kids.
I’m starting to feel a little duped. They don’t really know that much about these drugs before they start advertising how miraculous they are going to be. It sounds like they are just telling us what we need to hear, so that we’ll get excited and desperate and raise funds and pay them to do the research.
And that gets us parents working on fundraising, doesn’t it? The drug company says the only thing standing between our children and their good health is money. If only we can make it.
So we work our butts off holding fundraiser after fundraiser. So they can perform clinical tests and work toward FDA approval, as fast as possible, because our children are running out of time.
Read the rest of her blog here: The Orphan Drug Act and Exploitation by Drug Companies
Are we willing to give up the many years of safety testing to get drugs to the market cheaper and faster? SURE! Until one of our kids is injured or dies because of an unsafe medication and then how dare the drug company rush this to market without proper safety testing?
Are we willing change how the FDA measures effectiveness to get drugs to the market cheaper and faster? SURE! Until we find out the drug was no better than a placebo and we just wasted months or years on an ineffective treatment and then how dare the drug company rush this to market without proof it works?
Are we willing to change how prices of these drugs are set? SURE! Until companies, who are by law required to act in the best interests of their SHAREHOLDERS, decide to pass on promising treatments because it won’t be profitable enough and then how dare the drug company only be in it for the money?
It’s this last scenario that sank Seaside. Roche made a business decision to not sink additional money into a promising drug because it was never, not ever, going to be profitable. They chose instead to pursue their other compounds with similar or better results that would allow them to make money. There was never going to be a 7 year period of exclusivity on STX209 because it was derived from a compound that already exists in generic form…getting it approved for fragile X and/or autism would not have changed that. What would have SAVED this drug WOULD have been big dollar signs in the eyes of the company. Those other “novel” compounds that Roche is pursuing WILL have that 7 year period of exclusivity attached, they do have the possibility of big dollars, and those compounds are still being funded.
So we do have other options as parents. As I said in my post Balancing Hope, you can choose to “go in with your eyes open and your hopes realistic.” I know miracles are sexier but as we have experienced, the likelihood of getting your miracle is too low and the cost of expecting one is too high. We, as parents, should want safe, effective treatments for our kids. You only get safe, effective treatments with years and years of research. Years and years of research costs lots of money. You need to make lots and lots of money to spend lots of money.
When we lose sight of this reality and begin expecting cheap and fast miracles, we are only duping ourselves, IMO.