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What Is The Relationship Between The US Actor Jack Klugman And Orphan Drugs ?

December 26, 2012

The US actor Jack Klugman, best known for his TV roles in the series “The Odd Couple”, and as  the medical examiner on “Quincy, M.E.”, passed away at age 90 on Christmas Eve. What is not that well-known about the actor, is the role he played in helping to pass the US Orphan Drug Act through Congress in 1983.

In Washington D.C. in 1980, the U.S. Subcommittee on Health and the Environment had a hearing on the topic of developing treatments for orphan diseases.  Maurice Klugman,  a Hollywood producer and writer, who also suffered from a rare cancer, noticed an article on this hearing in the L.A. Times. Maurice, the brother of Jack Klugman, wrote an episode of “Quincy” on the orphan drug problem.

Jack Klugman was invited to testify before Congress by Representative Henry Waxman (D) of California, the subcommittee chairman. The New York Times wrote a March 9, 1981, front-page story titled,  “House told of need for Orphan Drugs” on Klugman’s testifying before Congress. This resulted in a bill that created the Office of Rare Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and also provided incentives to encourage companies to develop treatments for orphan drugs.

The Orphan Drug Act of 1982 was passed in the House, but not in the Senate. Senator Orrin Hatch (R) removed the bill’s tax credit incentive, and the bill eventually was passed in the Senate. Jack Klugman and his brother wrote a 2nd “Quincy” episode about an orphan drug bill that was being held up by a senator. In a “pivotal scene, Quincy confronts the Senator … and demands that he look out the window … a huge crowd gathered with signs that read, “We want the Orphan Drug Act” …. 500 extras who really did suffer from rare diseases” were hired for the scene.

Hatch did relent and the Waxman-Hatch Orphan Drug Act became law in 1983.

References December 26, 2012 article titled, “Famous Actor & Promoter of Orphan Drugs Dies”

Forbes December 25, 2012 article titled, “How The Odd Couple’s Jack Klugman Helped Create The Biotech Industry”

The New York Times March 9, 1981 article titled, “House told of need for Orphan Drugs”

The New York Times December 24, 2012 article titled, “Jack Klugman, Actor of Everyman Integrity, Dies at 90” December 25, 2012 article titled, “NORD remembers actor Jack Klugman for support to the Orphan Drug Act”

National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD) Issues Statement on Death of Actor Klugman

Washington Post December 25, 2012 article titled, “Jack Klugman’s secret, lifesaving legacy”

Copyright © 2012-2013, Orphan Druganaut Blog. All rights reserved.

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