August 1, 2008
As many of you know, and believe me, I am not patting myself on the back, I was an early opponent of Tysabri and was early in predicting the removal of Tysabri from the market in 2005.
As many of you also know, I was vehemently opposed to the FDA's decision to approve Tysabri, for re-introduction in the U.S., even with the so-called "black box label." The fact that European drug agencies had approved the drug for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) did not provide me any comfort.
Please, please, take note of the following press release from Biogen-Idec and Elan, manufactures/marketers of Tysabri:
In short, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy has now been found among a small number - very small at this point - of patients taking the drug for MS. Many prominent neurologists - many whom I deeply respect - have been supporters of this "treatment." Again, despite this, I have remained adamantly opposed to the use of this drug.
Why? I am sorry. But the risk of developing a deadly brain virus, even if the manufacturers quantify the risk at very low percentages, just seems a bit too HIGH for me relative to a) the fact that MS, itself, is not deadly, and b) there are other options. AND, while those options are not yet perfect, there are several new drugs in late stage clinical trials, including oral medications, that so far are proving far more effective in treating MS.
Biogen-Idec and Elan state that they have no intention of voluntarily pulling Tysabri from the market - once again.
As the news report from Bloomberg, a major business news sources, reports, the companies still plan to have 100,000 people on Tysabri by 2010. However, as of today, the stock market has made the assumption, by dropping the prices of the stocks, that the market for Tysabri will soon evaporate. As, in my humble opinion, it should.
For far too long, people with MS and others diseases, have been used as a guinea pig population, with the FDA permitting companies to rush new compounds to market. There is a trade-off here. I understand that. People want treatments. They want effective treatments. Many people that suffer from diseases such as MS want new treatments because they feel increasingly feel frustrated - and rightly so (being one of them) - with the persistent march of their illnesses and the negative impacts on the quality of their lives.
I understand all of that. I also understand that two pharmaceutical companies, Merck and Pfizer, that have performed clinical trials on very inexpensive drugs - statins - for the potential treatment of MS, seem to have no interest in pursuing the MS market with those soon-to-be off patent protection Pfizer's Lipitor), or already off patent protection (in the case of Merck's Zocor/simvastatin) drugs. After all, the MS market is far more lucrative if you can offer a new drug for $2,000 - $4,000 monthly instead of $23 - $100 a month. Keep in mind, in the U.S., there are only about 400,000 known cases of MS. So it's not a huge market.
I hope that you can take time to pass this Tysabri news on to people that may be interested.
Let me see. The possibility of death vs. living with MS. For me, however small the risk of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, I will happily live with MS.
Cary J. Polevoy