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Dying lawyer's son implores Biogen Idec

He says Tysabri trial may save life

Bloomberg News / October 16, 2008
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NEW YORK - The son of Fred Baron is pleading with Biogen Idec Inc. to let his dying father, the Dallas trial lawyer who served as finance chairman for John Edwards's presidential campaign, use the experimental cancer drug Tysabri.

"All we need is for you to just say 'yes' to save his life," Andrew Baron said in a letter to Biogen Idec chief executive James Mullen that was sent to the press and trial lawyers yesterday.

Andrew Baron said his father, 61, has multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, and may die within days. His father's doctor is studying use of multiple-sclerosis drug Tysabri in cancer patients, and wants to use it to treat Baron, a patient at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. The company has refused because Baron doesn't fit the trial's criteria, said Biogen spokeswoman Naomi Aoki.

Former President Bill Clinton and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor, are among those who have called the company or Mullen directly, Andrew Baron said. Biogen had received phone calls from the individuals or their staff members, Aoki said.

Cambridge-based Biogen Idec decided not to let Baron use the drug out of concern a negative result could complicate its efforts to have Tysabri approved to treat cancer, according to Aoki.

Tysabri, which is also used to treat Crohn's disease, was reintroduced to the market in 2006 after Biogen pulled it because of a link to a rare brain infection. The Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use approval to treat multiple myeloma.

Baron's doctor has administered the drug to another patient and wants to give it to Baron, the younger Baron said.

Mullen didn't make the decision to block Baron's doctor from using Tysabri on his own, Aoki said.

"It has nothing to do with who the person is," Aoki said. The decision is made by "medical officers, clinical development, the safety group, and regulatory affairs" officials, she said.

Baron is a founder of Baron & Budd, a law firm that recovered billions of dollars from suing manufacturers and industrial users of asbestos, which is linked to lung diseases and mesothelioma, a fatal cancer. He lobbied against tort reform and donates campaign funds to the Democratic Party.

Bill Clinton and Lance Armstrong have called on Biogen Idec to allow Fred Baron to enter the Tysabri clinical trial.

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