Bioethics Blogs

Can Bioethics Panels Fix the Problems With the Availability of “Compassionate Use” Experimental Drugs?

On
May 7, 2015, The New York Times reported that Johnson & Johnson (New Brunswick,
New Jersey)
had asked
Arthur Caplan, PhD, Professor of Bioethics at New York University School of
Medicine
to create a new panel “that will make decisions about patients’ requests for
potentially lifesaving medicine, responding to an emotional debate over whether
companies should allow desperately ill people to have access to the drugs
before they are approved [by the FDA].” 

Compassionate
use
” experimental drugs have been available for some time. In the recent Ebola crisis, last year the FDA “allowed the makers of ZMapp, an
experimental treatment, to be used on a handful of patients, but the company
quickly exhausted its limited supply.” Of late, several states have enacted
Right to Try” statutes in an attempt to craft a legally-recognized right to
early access to drugs still in clinical trials.

A drug company, like Johnson &
Johnson, establishing a bioethics panel to review individual patient requests
is a new strategy. However, in looking a the other complex issues involved, a
skeptic may view this novel development as a public relations ploy to deflect
social media pressure rather than as a serious solution to the associated
problems, including:

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.