If a disease affects, say, 150,000 people, that's a pretty widespread disease, right? Wrong. According to the government, a disease affecting less than 200,000 people is classified as a "rare" disease. Yet there are over 7,000 rare diseases, and all told nearly 25 million people in the U.S. have one.
The problem for those who are affected by a rare disease, such as asbestos-related diseases, is that often drug therapies are unavailable to them, because the pharmaceutical companies don't have as much of a financial stake in creating treatments for them as they do for a more common disease, such as high blood pressure.
New legislation introduced in Congress aims to change that. The bill, called the MODDERN (Modernize Our Drug and Diagnostics Evaluation and Regulatory Network) Cures Act does this by giving new incentives to drug companies to bring to market drugs that require a long time to develop. Drug companies might be reluctant to develop these sorts of treatments, because by the time the drug is fully tested and approved, the pharmaceutical company's patent on the drug may be expired or close to expiring. Once the patent has expired, generic drug makers can copy the formula and sell the drug for less, which means that many of these more difficult-to-develop drugs are never developed and approved in the first place.
The MODDERN Cures Act does not extend the time that the drug companies have under their patents, but it does extend the time before they must turn over their research to other companies. The bill does this by creating a new category for drugs that it calls "dormant therapies." These dormant therapies-many of which may be sitting in labs across the country right now-could be brought to market without their manufacturers having to turn over their research to competing drug makers, even if their patents have expired.
The companies that have developed these dormant therapies will have a financial incentive to bring their products to market, knowing that the threat of being undersold by generics is low. This could be a boon for patients suffering from rare diseases such as mesothelioma.
The bill is currently being considered by three committees in the House of Representatives.
If you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with a disease related to asbestos, it's a good idea to talk to an experienced personal injury attorney, who will have the resources to fully investigate what may have caused the exposure, and can help you protect your legal right to compensation.