He was 90. I was a big fan of "The Odd Couple," especially because I identified with the slovenly Oscar. The secret of life is that Oscars and Felixes need each other because their opposite traits create a weird sort of harmony. I also liked the early years of "Quincy, M.E." (before the protagonist started giving long, preachy speeches). But the best thing Klugman ever did was get the stalled Orphan Drug Act through Congress with the use of his star power:
Klugman’s unlikely star turn in Washington stemmed from a 1980 hearing by the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment on the problem of developing treatments for rare diseases. The problem was that many terrible diseases didn’t afflict enough people to entice pharmaceutical companies to develop treatments. Hence they were ”orphan” diseases. They included Tourette’s syndrome, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, ALS and many more. The situation was especially tragic because scientists who discovered promising treatments often couldn’t interest drug makers, who didn’t see potential for profit.
[. . .]
To capitalize on the publicity and build momentum for a bill, Rep. Henry Waxman (D) of California, the subcommittee chairman, invited Jack Klugman to testify before Congress. Nowadays on Capitol Hill, you’re as likely to run into Bono or Ben Affleck as your own representative. But at the time, a bona fide celebrity speaking to Congress was a huge deal. The New York Times ran a front-page story on Klugman and orphan diseases. That led to a bill with three big incentives for drug makers: a lighter regulatory burden for developing new orphan drugs, a seven-year monopoly, and a 90-percent tax credit for the cost of clinical trials. It also established an Office of Rare Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
[. . .]
Thanks to Klugman, the Waxman-Hatch Orphan Drug Act became law in 1983. In an ending Hollywood might have scripted, it has been a remarkable success. The FDA has approved more than 300 orphan drugs, with 1,100 more under development. One of the first developed under the law was AZT, the early AIDS treatment. Two years later, Congress expanded the law to include biological and chemical drugs, which helped spur the biotech industry.
Klugman’s distant influence continues to live on in the current Congress. It didn’t get any attention, of course, but earlier this year, in a rare feat of bipartisan decency, Congress passed the Creating HOPE Act for pediatric cancer research. The law relies on the same model as the Orphan Drug Act, offering pharmaceutical companies various regulatory and marketing incentives to devise new treatments for rare cancers that strike children, but aren’t seen as sufficiently profitable for drug makers to pursue on their own.
Wonder which one of his shows TVland will do a marahon of? Given the scary spectre of Obamacare, I vote for "Quincy."