On this episode of the podcast, Terry and Bob explore how to speed up the development of new cures and treatments for rare and chronic diseases. Currently, a new cure takes about ten years and $2 billion. Patients don’t have that much time. There are more creative ways to find new cures than the FDA and NIH status quo. They discuss “Operation Warp Speed,” which is the federal effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible, and ask whether it could be a model for faster medication development moving forward.
Terry interviews Dr. Gary Michelson, an orthopedic spinal surgeon, inventor, and philanthropist, who founded The Michelson Medical Research Foundation (MMRF), which invests in innovative research projects to improve patient outcomes across the world. Dr. Michelson argues that the current funding model for new medications must be disrupted. He criticizes the bureaucracy at the FDA and argues that the organization is too sclerotic to reform itself to develop faster cures. He also highlights the FDA’s risk-averse mindset that no single patient can ever be harmed, so no patients will be helped. This risk vs. reward tradeoff, he notes, contributes to the slow process of developing cures.
Dr. Michelson calls on public and private funders to invest in high-risk, high-reward projects run by creative young thinkers. He points to research that shows genius and creativity decline after the age of 35, yet only about 3 percent of funding goes to this young cohort. Instead, funding goes to senior scientists who know how to game the system and who are only looking to make incremental gains. To accelerate new cures and help patients with rare diseases as quickly as possible, funding must go to researchers who think outside the box, dream big, and have perseverance. His organization is leading this shakeup to develop a new generation of cures.
Patient correspondent Kate Pecora interviews Lindsey Kaizer, who depends on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver medication for her narcolepsy. Lindsey highlights how the threat that USPS may stop delivering medication would significantly impact her. She notes how medication delivery is very convenient for her because one of her medications is highly restricted and cannot be obtained at a traditional pharmacy. Having medication delivery also means that she doesn’t have to worry about forgetting to refill her medication because it comes to her door when she runs out. USPS must consider patients like Lindsey before it makes any decisions about ending prescription drug delivery.