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Dying Lawyer's Son, Clintons Beg Biogen to Use Drug (Update1)

By Laurence Viele Davidson and Bob Van Voris

Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) -- The son of Fred Baron is pleading with Biogen Idec Inc. to let his dying father, the Dallas trial lawyer who served as finance chairman for John Edwards's presidential campaign, use the experimental cancer drug Tysabri.

``All we need is for you to just say `yes' to save his life,'' Andrew Baron said in an open letter to Biogen Chief Executive Officer James Mullen that was sent to the press and trial lawyers today.

Andrew Baron said his father, 61, has multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, and may die within days. His father's doctor is studying use of multiple-sclerosis drug Tysabri in cancer patients, and wants to use it to treat Baron, a patient at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The company has refused because Baron doesn't fit the trial's criteria, said Naomi Aoki, a Biogen spokeswoman.

Former President Bill Clinton and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor, are among those who have called the company or Mullen directly, Andrew Baron said. U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton also called, Aoki said. Biogen received phone calls from the individuals or their staff members, Aoki said.

Biogen Decision

Biogen, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, decided not to let Baron use the drug out of concern a negative result could complicate its efforts to have Tysabri approved to treat cancer, according to Aoki.

Tysabri, which is also used to treat Crohn's disease, was pulled from the market in February 2005 after it was linked to a rare brain infection. It was reintroduced in July 2006. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use approval to treat Baron's multiple myeloma.

Baron's doctor has administered the drug to another patient and wants to give it to Baron, his son Andrew said.

Although doctors are able to prescribe most drugs for uses that aren't FDA-approved, Tysabri may only be prescribed to multiple sclerosis and Crohn's patients as part of a company- controlled program designed to reduce the risks of the drug.

Law Firm Founder

Mullen didn't make the decision to block Baron's doctor from using Tysabri on his own, Aoki said.

``It has nothing to do with who the person is,'' Aoki said. The decision is made by ``medical officers, clinical development, the safety group and regulatory affairs'' officials, she said.

Baron, of Dallas, is a founder of Baron & Budd, a law firm that recovered billions of dollars from suing manufacturers and industrial users of asbestos, which is linked to lung diseases and mesothelioma, a fatal cancer. Baron & Budd has also represented clients who claim injuries from drugs and toxic chemicals.

Baron lobbied against tort reform and donates campaign funds to the Democratic Party.

In August, the Dallas Morning News and New York Times reported details of Baron's role in helping to conceal Edwards's affair with Rielle Hunter, a woman who produced videos for his presidential campaign. Baron told the Morning News that he paid to help Hunter move away from North Carolina at a time when reporters were pursuing rumors of the affair.

To contact the reporters on this story: Laurence Viele Davidson in Atlanta at lviele@bloomberg.net; Bob Van Voris in New York at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: October 15, 2008 19:39 EDT

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