New York, NY / Washington DC – The following is the response of Jeff Stier, director of the National Center’s Risk Analysis Division, to the decision of the drug company Chimerix to make an experimental drug, Brincidofovir, available to an ailing seven-year-old boy:
I’m happy Josh is getting these drugs, and I hope they work for him and he thrives. It is a heart-wrenching story, and we wish the best for him and his family.
But lost among all the coverage of this story are the critical public policy implications that affect drug development.
Should society expect companies to give away their drugs for compassionate use every time?
The answer isn’t so simple.
Ignored in this powerful emotion-evoking case are two critical components to the very system that bring us miracle lifesaving drugs.
1) We have lifesaving drugs because we have a system of profit-driven innovation. If there’s an expectation that companies should give away medicine simply because the patient, no matter how sympathetic, needs it, companies are going to have a difficult time raising the capital from investors. Those dollars, always risky investments, are a corner-stone of the innovating pharmaceutical industry and the basis for the benefits we enjoy as a result of new medicines.
2) In order to ensure the development of new safe and effective drugs, we all rely on a regulatory environment that allows for an orderly drug trial system. Certainly, the regulations should be more limited and flexible. But the system itself, like profit-driven innovation, is an essential element to the development of drugs we can trust, both today and in the future.
As important as it is that Josh is saved, it is also important to be cognizant of why Josh and his family now have hope. It is because of a system that allows for the innovation of the medicine he so badly needs. Expecting drug companies to give away medicines and always short-circuit the trial system may be satisfying in the short term, but the effects of eroding the system would be devastating. We should all want to preserve a system that works because when this boy grows up and has a seven-year-old boy of his own, that boy could need a cutting-edge drug as well. And if that happens, we want our drug system to be able to provide it for him.
New York City-based Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and heads its Risk Analysis Division. Stier has testified at federal, state and local-level scientific and legislative meetings and hearings on health and risk issues.
Stier has addressed health policy on CNBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and network newscasts. Stier’s National Center op-eds have been published in top outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, Newsday, Forbes, the Washington Examiner and National Review Online. He also frequently discusses risk issues on Twitter at @JeffaStier.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.
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