Jack Klugman’s Secret, Lifesaving Legacy: The Orphan Drug Act

If anyone missed this over the holiday, it's a very heartwarming story about actor Jack Klugman's real legacy and how he managed to roll obstructionist Sen. Orrin Hatch: Jack Klugman’s secret, lifesaving legacy: The actor Jack Klugman died on
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If anyone missed this over the holiday, it's a very heartwarming story about actor Jack Klugman's real legacy and how he managed to roll obstructionist Sen. Orrin Hatch: Jack Klugman’s secret, lifesaving legacy:

The actor Jack Klugman died on Christmas Eve at age 90. Klugman was best known for his roles as the unkempt sportswriter in “The Odd Couple” and as the crusading medical examiner on “Quincy, M.E.” the wildly popular 1980s medical drama. Few people remember it today, but he also played an instrumental role in passing critical health-care legislation, the Orphan Drug Act, through Congress in the early 1980s, using “Quincy” and his own celebrity to roll Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), who was blocking the bill.

Klugman’s unlikely star turn in Washington stemmed from a 1980 hearing by the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment on the problem of developing treatments for rare diseases. 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. The situation was especially tragic because scientists who discovered promising treatments often couldn’t interest drug makers, who didn’t see potential for profit.

The issue of orphan diseases was so obscure that only a single newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, sent a reporter to the hearing (and the Times only did so because a local boy suffering from Tourette’s testified). But the article caught the eye of a Hollywood writer and producer named Maurice Klugman, who himself suffered from a rare cancer and also happened to be Jack Klugman’s brother. Maurice Klugman wrote an episode of “Quincy” about Tourette’s and the orphan drug problem.

Go read the rest at the link above. RIP Jack Klugman.

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