Where Cancer Progress Is Rare, One Man Says No

From The New York Times:

Rick Politicians and researchers have predicted for nearly four decades that a cure for cancer is near, but cancer death rates have hardly budged and most new cancer drugs cost a fortune while giving patients few, if any, added weeks of life. For this collective failure, the man atop the nation’s regulatory agency for new cancer drugs increasingly — and supporters say unfairly — gets the blame: Dr. Richard Pazdur. Patient advocates have called Dr. Pazdur, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s cancer drug office, a murderer, conservative pundits have vilified him as an obstructionist bureaucrat, and guards are now posted at the agency’s public cancer advisory meetings to protect him and other committee members.

“The industry is not producing that many good drugs, so now they’re looking for scapegoats in Rick Pazdur and the F.D.A.,” said Ira S. Loss, who follows the drug industry for Washington Analysis, a service for investors. In 10 years at the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Pazdur, 57, has helped to loosen approval standards for cancer medicines and made it easier for dying patients to get experimental drugs. But he demands that drug makers prove with near certainty that their products are beneficial, a requirement that he repeated at a public advisory hearing on Sept. 1 in the slow, loud tones of someone disciplining a dog. After he spoke, the committee of experts voted to reject both drugs.

Critics say that Dr. Pazdur’s resolve has cost thousands of lives and set back the pace of discoveries. “Patients are right to be angry and frustrated with Richard Pazdur,” said Steven Walker, co-founder of the Abigail Alliance, a patient advocacy group. “He is a dinosaur.”

More here.