Durham drugmaker reverses course on providing a drug to ill boy

March 12, 2014 

Seven-year-old Josh Hardy, shown in May 2013 photo, was treated for malignant rhabdoid tumor at St. Jude's when he was nine months old. He's been cancer free for more than two years and has been raising money for St. Jude's with his kindergarten class at Hugh Mercer Elementary.

PETER CIHELKA — The Free Lance-Star

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Josh Hardy is desperate. The 7-year-old Virginia boy is in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, suffering from a potentially fatal virus that he developed after a bone marrow transplant for leukemia.

One company, drugmaker Chimerix of Durham, has been developing an antiviral drug, Brincidofovir, but it hasn’t been approved for public use. The company at first declined to give Josh the drug because it has been forced to turn down many people, including some of its own employees, because it’s not available for everyone.

But with approval of the federal government, Josh will become part of a limited trial, which will allow him to receive the drug. This came after the company talked with the Food and Drug Administration after a firestorm of negative reaction when it denied the boy the drug.

The company’s position was impossible. To some degree, its stand on not giving the drug to one person while others are denied and the fact that the drug has not even approved were legitimate reasons to deny the request from Josh’s family. But company officials, responding to a social media explosion, recognized they had to find a way to do the right thing for a dying child, and they did.

The hope – and it’s now a hope shared around the United States, thanks to all media reports – is that Josh Hardy will find this drug to be a literal lifesaver. The child currently is in and out of consciousness at St. Jude’s. Any parent who has shared with his family the heartbreaking struggle to pull a child through an illness can identify with what the Hardys are going through. And, thanks to the support and demands of many strangers, Josh now has a better chance of pulling through.

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