Oct. 04--An anonymous drug company has stepped forward to give experimental
cancer drugs to an Austin woman who has waged a social media war for the
treatment for more than two months.
Since August, Andrea Sloan has been battling BioMarin Pharmaceutical for access
to BMN 673, an investigational drug whose early success in treating ovarian
cancer has been touted to the California company's shareholders. BioMarin has
refused to give it to her, saying it would be "unethical and reckless" because
the drug is still in the clinical trial phase.
But this week, another pharmaceutical company took the rare step of intervening
to give Sloan a similar drug being developed. The company, one of several that
Sloan approached, wants to remain anonymous.
"I think they are in the business of curing cancer and other diseases and that
they don't want or need a big ticker tape parade," Sloan said.
Sloan, 45, began treatment this week.
BioMarin, which has been fiercely criticized by Sloan's thousands of supporters,
said in a statement, "We are pleased to hear this update from Ms. Sloan. We wish
her the best in her journey."
Sloan's campaign drew national attention to the issue of "compassionate use,"
which allows pharmaceutical companies to offer experimental drugs to terminally
ill people who have exhausted their treatment options. But drug companies are
often loathe to give people those medications, saying they aren't yet ready for
Sloan's social media push is a rare victory among other such publicized pleas.
BioMarin was involved in another firestorm this year when an 18-year-old girl in
Britain was denied drugs her doctors believed might stave off her bone cancer.
The teen died in February.
It is not uncommon for companies to privately work with individuals on such
requests, said Bob Erwin, co-founder of the Marti Nelson Cancer Foundation, a
California-based organization that works on compassionate use issues. But it is
highly unusual for a high-profile case to draw action from a drug company's
competitor, as in Sloan's case, he said.
"It's not common for another company to respond so generously because another
one is being a jerk," Erwin said.
Sloan, executive director of the Texas Advocacy Project, was first diagnosed
with ovarian cancer seven years ago. When traditional treatments stopped working
this year, her doctors suggested she pursue a compassionate use exemption for
Company officials declined, saying the drug has been tested on fewer than 30
people and providing it to everyone who wants it without more research would be
"unethical and reckless."
Sloan and her friends took their fight online. Since mid-August, more than
190,000 people have signed her online petition. Members of a Facebook group
called Andi's Army led the social media charge, reaching out to anyone they
thought could promote the cause.
Celebrities, including Mia Farrow, Chris Meloni and Wynonna Judd, offered their
online support for the Austin woman's quest. More than 80 Texas legislators
signed a letter asking the California State Assembly to put pressure on the
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