The timing of your June 3 editorial “Erbitux and the Press” was wonderful, running exactly one year from the day my surgeon declared my body cancer-free. During the winter of 2002 I had the unique experience of watching the press commit mass journalistic malpractice on ImClone as I watched television and read newspapers while lying on my hospital bed undergoing chemotherapy. Regardless of whom Martha Stewart talked to before she sold, the real crime was the lost potential and lost lives caused by the FDA’s bureaucratic delays of a cancer treatment with real promise. But no serious reporter, save those at the Journal’s editorial page, even thought to ask the right questions.
The organization I work for has long argued for a limited, well-defined mission at the FDA based on safety. Instead, patients in need of new, innovative therapies have gotten longer approval times and delays from an agency that has spent valuable time and energy attempting to regulate tobacco and form new guidelines on everything from fresh-squeezed orange juice to French cheese. I used to object on good public policy grounds. Now it’s personal.
Happily, there is finally some new thinking on the inside, thanks to FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan. We can only hope that he continues to push for openness, clarity and speed in the approval process for new drugs.
As for the press: Get over Martha, she’s already rich. Instead, why not focus on how dying patients might benefit from a dynamic marketplace for new medical technologies that rewards risk, innovation and entrepreneurship. I know it’s radical, but someday it might be you in that hospital bed.
Executive Vice President
Citizens for a Sound Economy