Monday, June 23, 2008
In today's Wall Street Journal, Ed Rensi, former President and CEO of McDonalds USA lauds the 25th anniversay of the Orphan Drug Act. His most salient point is that the Act made collaboration between for-profit and nonprofit organizations easier and thus resulted in the more efficient development of drugs for rare diseases:
The Orphan Drug Act fosters collaboration between for-profit corporations and nonprofit organizations – something I have not only encouraged, but also practiced. As regional vice president of McDonald's USA in Philadelphia, I was approached about the need families of children with cancer had for affordable housing so that parents could be close while their child was undergoing treatment. I decided in 1974 that the Philadelphia market of McDonald's would join in the building of the first Ronald McDonald House, by making it possible for many committed people to take the risk and raise money through our restaurants. Using nothing but philanthropic funds, we helped to build Ronald McDonald House Charities into what it is today, with 276 Ronald McDonald Houses scattered around the globe. I strongly believe that it is important for a corporation to stand for something and contribute to society in a way in which its employees can be proud. This isn't always easy for companies to do. The Orphan Drug Act has made it easier for many nonprofit organizations to partner with companies to find treatments for rare diseases.
No doubt the for profit companies that partnered with nonprofits in the development of new, badly needed drugs greatly enhanced their own bottom lines. As readers familiar with charitable health care know all too painfully, the Service has made it very nearly impossible for such joint ventures to exist, much less thrive. Mr. Rensi' views, though anecdotal, provide a very clear example of the benefits that are being foregone because the Service is so afraid of "private benefit." Mr. Rensi' op-ed piece calls on Congress to pass laws making it easier, not harder, for non-profits to collaborate with profit-seekers in an effort to harness self-interest for public benefit. The Service should heed that call, first by revoking the rulings that make "whole hospital" joint ventures so difficult to achieve.