Shirley S. Wang of the Wall Street Journal reports (subscription) on the fallout from a study published in Science showing that bexarotene, a drug approved for treating skin cancer, appears to clear amyloids from the brains of mice.
In the wake of research suggesting a skin-cancer drug may have benefits in treating Alzheimer’s disease, physicians and advocacy groups are getting a flurry of calls from patients seeking to use the drug off-label.
Once a drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, physicians may prescribe it “off-label” if they choose to do so. The cost is estimated at about $1,200 per month, and though insurance would not cover it, there appears to be substantial interest nonetheless. And the patent will expire latter in 2012, likely resulting in a large reduction in price if a generic version is brought to market.
The policy dilemma is an old one: Who decides whether the benefits are worth the risks?