Doherty, 48, died in his Toronto home Tuesday after months of publicly fighting for access to a trial-stage melanoma drug.
Despite pleas from his family, his doctor’s approval and a change.org petition just shy of 200,000 signatures, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) repeatedly refused to provide Doherty with compassionate access to its drug, saying it was not yet safe for use outside clinical trials.
His death raises the question: For a patient with no other chance at survival, do drug companies have the responsibility to let them try a drug even if it could harm them?
This particular drug, immune system off-switch blocker BMS-936558, showed early signs of success in phase one testing but is not yet safe for use outside clinical trials, BMS told the Star.
“While we are unable to comment on specific patient cases, we have the deepest sympathy for those who have lost loved ones to cancer,” company spokeswoman Sonia Choi said in an email Wednesday.
The best way to make cancer medicine broadly available to patients, Choi wrote, is through “carefully controlled clinical trials” that establish the risks and benefits, and “by working with health authorities to successfully register these medicines.”
But when Doherty had cancer in 2007, he responded well to a similar, then-experimental BMS drug. His family felt his medical history made him a good candidate for the new drug — besides, when the cancer returned, they had nothing to lose.
“Obviously we are tremendously upset and disappointed that they chose not to make the exception,” said Doug Boyce, Doherty’s lifelong friend, on the phone from Vancouver.
More than that, Boyce said, friends and family are sad and disappointed that there seems to be no system in place for people who reach the end of treatment options to safely access new drugs from pharmaceuticals, without the company fearing ramifications if the drug fails. “It would seem there’s a gap there.”
Doherty was a caring, giving man who was most proud of his family, Boyce said, his voice breaking. The men grew up together in Oshawa, spending many hours at various cottages, pools and golf courses over the years. Boyce remembers his friend as the man who, when given a month to live in 2007, tossed the papers aside and said, “We won’t speak of that again.”
Doherty’s wife, Rebecca Cumming, thanked the public for the support over the past month and directed donations to the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund or the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation.
“We always remained hopeful that BMS would change its mind and Darcy would have another miracle. Sadly, that did not happen.
Commentary by a Stage IV Melanoma Survivor:
Bristol-Myers Squibb should be ashamed of itself and should be held accountable for the premature death of Mr. Daoherty. BMY could have granted an exception to their rules and allowed Darcy compassionate care due to the fact that he had no other option.
This puts BMS in a very unethical stance with EGG on their face. (Mr. Lamberto Andreotti)
Bristol-Myers Squibb needs cancer patients to enroll in their clinical trials to test them for efficacy. Without the patient, there would be no trial, no FDA approval, and no product. The patient plays a critical role in the Commercialization of this new drug. So why did BMS refuse compassionate use? It wasn't because they would loose money? They have reeped benefit of Yervoy and their other drug revenues to pay cash to acquire Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. The price (5.3 billion dollars) in CASH!!!!! Bristol could have given away 4 doses to this dying man as the last hope, but no, Bristol Myers refused!!!!
Is Bristol-Myers committed to their social responsiblity, " Help save lives???
Was their Behavoir Ethical??? Or is it all about GREED???
I think it is the latter. This is not the first time that this situation has reared it's ugly head. There were many Patients that lost their lives because Bristol-Myers Squibb closed it's compassionate use of Yervoy for melanoma patientsts, only to open new Clinical trials to create a shortage for the drug.
As a share holder of this company, I am a shamed of their ethical practices.
Here is what is posted on their website.
To our patients and customers, employees, global communities, shareholders, environment and other stakeholders, we promise to act on our belief that the priceless ingredient of every product is the integrity of its maker. We operate with effective governance and high standards of ethical behavior. We seek transparency and dialogue with our stakeholders to improve our understanding of their needs. We take our commitment to economic, social and environmental sustainability seriously, and extend this expectation to our partners and suppliers.
In our mission to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases, we support a clean and healthy environment and subscribe to policies and practices that merit the trust and confidence of our society.
This is all LIP SERVICE!!!!!!!
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”