Celebs plea for off-label Tysabri

No one can accuse Biogen Idec of playing favorites. The company has been under assault by luminaries from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Lance Armstrong, who are trying to get Biogen's Tysabri drug for Fred Baron, a legal bigwig who's dying of multiple myeloma. Tysabri is in Phase I testing in multiple myeloma patients. But Baron doesn't meet the trial criteria. And Biogen has an ironclad policy of refusing the med for  so-called "compassionate use."

Biogen's reasoning is rooted in Tysabri's complex biography. As you all know, the drug was hailed as a major breakthrough for multiple sclerosis patients after its first launch, but then was pulled off the market in February 2005 because of links to a potentially fatal brain infection, PML. The drug was reintroduced in 2006 under a restrictive access program. Since then, Tysabri has won a broader market, with an approval to treat Crohn's disease. It's also seen a couple of new cases of PML in Europe; those cases were added to Tysabri's labeling.

Biogen CEO Jim Mullen (photo) has held up under the assault of publicity ginned up on Baron's behalf. Calls from the likes of Armstrong, Ted Kennedy, the Clintons, John Kerry and Henry Waxman haven't swayed him. The company doesn't want to set a precedent by allowing Baron to use Tysabri, given the PML risks--and the risk to Tysabri's future should Baron experience an adverse reaction. "We want to protect access for patients who are on the drug now and rely on it," a Biogen spokeswoman told Pharmalot. "[W]e feel like we can't make an exception in this case."

- read the story at Pharmalot