Seven-year-old Joshua Hardy is improving after a social media campaign convinced a drug company to give him an experimental drug that could save his life. But the backlash has been intense, with numerous observers expressing concern over the idea of "crowdsourcing medical decisions," the Washington Post reports. The problem? In order to help as many patients as possible, as quickly as possible, drug companies need to focus on getting their experimental drugs approved via clinical trials—not doling them out for compassionate use. (In Joshua's case, the drug company and the FDA ended up fast-tracking a new clinical trial rather than going the compassionate use route.)
If something goes wrong with a patient using an experimental drug, the approval process could be delayed; it's also possible that the drug company would have to take the time to make more of the drug. Plus, there's the fact that since insurance companies usually don't pay for unapproved drugs, they could potentially be handed out only to patients who can pay. The idea of giving an experimental drug to one patient but not another, based solely on the story going viral, is an ethical quandary. "For Josh, we are glad," reads an editorial in the Herald-Sun, a newspaper in Durham, NC, where the drug company is based. "But the process leaves us pained. This is no way to make health-care decisions."