Last week the newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported on a court case in which the parents of two young boys sued a pharmaceutical company over access to one of their developmental drugs. The drug in question was Ataluren, the pharmaceutical company PTC Therapeutics. The boys suffer from Duchenne muscular dystrophy and had taken part in a clinical trial. Whereas the results of this trial on the whole were inconclusive the boys did seriously benefit from the drug. Hardly any wonder the parents took action when the whole development program was canceled.
And the judge? He threw the case out arguing that doctors do not make the compound themselves and arguing that the compound is not commercially available. Are these arguments valid? and do the boys have options?
It is not that ataluren is a complex molecule. To judge from one of the patents, synthesis is straightforward starting from 2-cyanobenoic acid and 2-fluorobenzoyl chloride, both commercially available. The synthetic steps are methylation of 2-cyanobenoic acid (iodomethane), nitrile hydrolysis with hydroxylamine, esterification with the fluoro acid chloride using DIPEA, high-temperature dehydration to the oxadiazole and finally ester hydrolysis (NaOH).
Except for the fluorine atom in it the compound is unremarkable. If you have to believe the Internet many Chinese companies produce and sell it. Ataluren is also still in the running as a potential treatment for some other diseases. So if need be the compound will be around for some time to come.