Jack Klugman's Quiet Legacy: Lifesaving Crusader

Actor shoved Congress to pass Orphan Drug Act of 1982

By Liam Carnahan,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 26, 2012 11:58 AM CST

(Newser) – Most obituaries of Jack Klugman remember him for his roles on The Odd Couple and Quincy, M.E., but the actor had another legacy that few people remember, reports the Washington Post. Klugman was a fierce advocate of the Orphan Drug Act of 1982, a bill that aimed to provide incentives to drug companies that were reluctant to develop treatments for rare diseases like Tourrette's syndrome, muscular dystrophy, and ALS, because they weren't common enough to be lucrative. Klugman's brother, Maurice, suffered from a rare cancer, and together they used Jack's star power to persuade congress to act.

Maurice Klugman wrote an episode of Quincy that focused on the Orphan Drug Act, which propelled the political battle from obscurity to front-page news. Jack Klugman testified before congress back before it was trendy for celebs to champion political causes. His support helped launch the bill through the House, but it stalled in the Senate by Orrin Hatch, who effectively "neutered" the bill by removing a tax incentive. Worried that the bill might be doomed, the Klugmans wrote another Quincy episode about the bill—this one featured a villainous senator and 500 extras who really suffered from rare diseases. It worked. Hatch gave in, and the act became law. "All in all," writes Joshua Green in the Post, "an impressive addendum to Klugman’s acting career. May he rest in peace."

Actor Jack Klugman presents the legend award on stage at the TV Land Awards on Sunday June 8, 2008.
Actor Jack Klugman presents the legend award on stage at the TV Land Awards on Sunday June 8, 2008.   (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
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