In most cases, the free market works quite well to meet needs. Sometimes, however, there is a need for incentives for businesses to undertake activities that benefit the public but which might not otherwise be profitable. This is clearly one of them.
When all else failed, the promise of corporate profits for pediatric cancer drugs did what cajoling to save children could not.
Legislation by Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, soon to be signed by President Barack Obama, will offer drug companies multimillion-dollar incentives to pioneer medications for rare childhood diseases that afflict too few kids to make a profit.
The legislation is meant to remedy a chronic mismatch in which the FDA has approved dozens of new drugs to combat adult cancers since 1980 - and only one for the treatment of childhood cancer.
"We're giving companies incentives to make money because the free market has failed to develop these medications," says McCaul, a five-term Austin Republican and father of five who founded the 94-member Congressional Childhood Cancer Caucus.
Letís be honest Ė childhood cancers are relatively rare. As a result, there really is not an economy of scale that makes it possible for drug companies to develop and manufacture drugs to treat these devastating diseases. At such times, there really can be no objections to government aiding these companies to do what otherwise might never be done.
This is an issue that resonates with me. A friendís young grandson has been fighting a rare cancer since just after Christmas. The disease is aggressive and the treatments are experimental. It is difficult for a four-year-old and his family -- and the latest round of bad news came this week. If this sort of investment saves the lives of children in the future, it will be worth it.