New law encourages companies to develop cancer drugs for children

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by Doug Miller/ KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on September 25, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 25 at 6:40 PM

HOUSTON—Many children like Julia Cobb are fighting cancer with medicine made for adults, but now there’s a move to encourage the development of pediatric drugs.

Halloween is special this year because Julia has been fighting disease. She’s been treated with drugs developed for adults because there aren’t enough drugs specifically targeting childhood cancers.

"And to me, that’s astounding. You go to a cancer hospital and it’s wall-to-wall children, all looking for a miracle," said Julia’s mom Jennifer.

But the harsh truth is kids actually make up just a small portion of all cancer patients, so pharmaceutical companies generally aren’t making new drugs for them.

"There’s really a market failure when it comes to childhood cancer drugs. We’ve only had one developed since the 1980s. And yet, it’s the number one killer of our children," said U.S. representative Mike McCaul.

Congress has just passed a law to encourage the development of pediatric cancer drugs.

This is how it works: If you’re a pharmaceutical company and you come up with a new child cancer drug, the FDA will give you a voucher. With that voucher, you can get expedited FDA approval for any other new drug you develop.

Danong Chen, whose small Houston company is working on a new child cancer drug, estimates the voucher is worth up to $300 million.

"But on the other hand, we can always transfer that voucher, sell it to another company, getting the cash for further development of our own products," said Chen.

Julia Cobb just got the news she’s cancer free.

"And we got our miracle, but not everyone’s so fortunate," said her mom.

With any luck, someday, there’ll be new cancer drugs for children like Julia Cobb.

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