The story you don't know about Jack Klugman

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

The story you don't know about Jack Klugman

Jack Klugman and his sons, Adam and David

At age 90, Jack Klugman passed away this week on Christmas Eve. Many BlueOregon readers now his son, Adam, as a regular guest columnist here, a media activist, and the host of "Mad as Hell in America" on the once-progressive KPOJ.

Jack was best known, of course, for his work as an actor - 12 Angry Men, The Odd Couple, Quincy M.E., and so much more.

But writing in the Washington Post, Joshua Green tells the untold story of Klugman's political legacy:

The problem was that many terrible diseases didn’t afflict enough people to entice pharmaceutical companies to develop treatments. Hence they were ”orphan” diseases. They included Tourette’s syndrome, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, ALS and many more. ...

To capitalize on the publicity and build momentum for a bill, Rep. Henry Waxman (D) of California, the subcommittee chairman, invited Jack Klugman to testify before Congress. Nowadays on Capitol Hill, you’re as likely to run into Bono or Ben Affleck as your own representative. But at the time, a bona fide celebrity speaking to Congress was a huge deal. The New York Times ran a front-page story on Klugman and orphan diseases. That led to a bill with three big incentives for drug makers: a lighter regulatory burden for developing new orphan drugs, a seven-year monopoly, and a 90-percent tax credit for the cost of clinical trials. It also established an Office of Rare Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

The Orphan Drug Act of 1982 sailed through the House. But it ran into trouble in the Senate. ...

In a fit of pique, Jack Klugman hit upon a novel idea. He and his brother wrote a second “Quincy” episode, this one revolving around an orphan drug bill that was being held up by a heartless (fictitious) senator. ...

Hatch, too, finally relented. Thanks to Klugman, the Waxman-Hatch Orphan Drug Act became law in 1983. In an ending Hollywood might have scripted, it has been a remarkable success. The FDA has approved more than 300 orphan drugs, with 1,100 more under development. One of the first developed under the law was AZT, the early AIDS treatment. ...

All in all, an impressive addendum to Klugman’s acting career. May he rest in peace.

Adam, you and your family are in our thoughts.

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