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« The JCRC Candidates' Forum | Main | Let's Pretend »

It's Not What You Know...

In fact, it's not even what you make, it's who you know:

An ailing Democratic fundraiser has obtained an experimental cancer-fighting drug through the Mayo Clinic, according to his son, despite the drug maker's refusal to sanction the treatment.

Fred Baron, a prominent political donor linked to the John Edwards mistress scandal, received the drug Tysabri after a "legal basis" for its use was found, his son Andrew Baron said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. He didn't elaborate.

Baron has described Tysabri as a "last chance effort for life" in his 61-year-old father's battle with late-stage multiple myeloma. Doctors last week gave Fred Baron only days to live, his son said.

Tysabri is approved for people with multiple sclerosis or Crohn's disease, but is only in the early clinical trial stage for multiple myeloma.

Patients can seek to use drugs outside the authorized use under what the Food and Drug Administration calls single-patient investigations. But permission must ultimatelyBiogen Idec Inc., which manufactures Tysabri, didn't grant permission to treat Fred Baron with the drug, company spokeswoman Naomi Aoki said late Thursday. Biogen has maintained the regulatory risks of giving him special access to Tysabri are too great.

The company stood by its decision despite appeals from such prominent figures as former President Bill Clinton and cyclist Lance Armstrong.

Andrew Baron said the Mayo Clinic, working with the FDA, found a legal basis for using Tysabri on his father.
come from the drug manufacturer, said Judy Leon, an FDA spokeswoman.

Look, I have nothing against Fred Baron. I hope the treatment helps and I hope he lives. But this article contains an entire critique of our treatment of drugs, and another critique of the economics of health care.

A company has developed a treatment that has the potential to save a man's life. He's likely going to die, anyway. Why on earth should the company be held liable for its effects on him, if doctors say there's a chance it will help, and he's requesting the treatment? Let him sign a waiver, and maybe he will live. And maybe we'll discover something about the drug, or the disease, that will save lives down the line.

More broadly, doesn't this show that medicine is a scarce resource, not a "public good?" Medicine, in extremis, like any other product, will have to be rationed. Right now, we ration it through the ability to pay, either directly or through insurance. The result of a socialized system will be bureaucrats making the decisions about who's "deserving" of care.

What is more "fair" about rationing it though political connections?

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