The following blog contains non-emotional comments from Dr. Bob Goldberg …
After reading that the FDA approved the first drug for treating kidney cancer in over ten years, a drug that was so effective that the National Cancer Institute told the company that was developing it to stop the trial early, I wondered, “what would Merrill Goozner write.” Goozner, who has dumped on every new cancer drug developed and pissed on Tysabri the drug for multiple sclerosis which is about twice as effective as any other drug for MS on the market for many patients was true to form. Goozner once again blatantly distorts clinical data to assert that the drug, Nexavar, does not prolong life. In fact, many patients lived on average twice as long with end stage kidney cancer (6 months compared to 3 months) compared to people who had other drugs. Now anyone but Goozner, who wants to put new drugs in the worst light possible, will tell you that the average includes people who lived a lot longer than 6 months including those who went into remission. And as we develop genetic tests to identify who responds best to which cancer drugs we will be able to provide Nexavar to people with kidney cancer patients well before the cancer is end stage and treat it as a chronic disease as we are doing with breast cancer. The FDA and NCI rapidly reorganized the clinical trials for this drug around such new science as best it could. And it is in large part for this reason that Nexavar was so quickly approved after so much delay. Going forward the FDA is seeking to use tools that more accurately measure how and cancer drug works and what patients it works for.
But all you read from Goozner is the heart problems associated with the drug and how the Europeans are waiting, waiting and waiting for real survival data. Of course Goozner won’t tell you that the Europeans are still waiting for survival data about Herceptin even as we are using to basically cure breast cancer before it starts in a lot of women in an effort to save money. And he ignored the quote from FDA’s cancer division head Dick Padzur who said, “Rarely do we see a 100 percent improvement in a new cancer treatment.”
Goozner, like Sid Wolfe, who heads up Public Citizen, the group from which Goozner’s garbage flows is more interested in killing drug companies than in saving the lives of people. His life work is in contrast to a friend of mine, Alan Feldman who died five years ago this Hanukkah from kidney cancer. He was an oncologist. But more than that he was one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever known Even as he himself was dying from cancer he treated other patients, offering them hope and care. In the last of his journal entries Alan wrote that he hoped he could live to see the day when a more effective medicine for kidney cancer would be approved. He realized how precious each day was as a doctor, father and friend. My celebration of this Hanukkah will be enhanced by knowing that one his wishes has finally come to pass. But my joy in learning about the approval of Nexavar is tempered by the sadness in knowing that he is not alive to use it on behalf of others.