Remembering Jack Klugman

The Lymphangiomatosis and Gorham’s Disease Alliance was saddened to hear of the death last week of actor Jack Klugman. Best known as curmudgeon Oscar Madison on the 1970’s television show The Odd Couple, Mr. Klugman was an early advocate for rare diseases, supporting the patient advocates who were trying to get the Orphan Drug Act passed by Congress and signed into law in 1982/83 by focusing the spotlight on rare disease in his television show Quincy, ME. Those patient advocates would go on to form the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).

NORD issued the following statement shortly after Mr. Klugman’s death Christmas Eve at age 90:

“Jack Klugman touched the lives of millions of Americans through his support for what ultimately became the Orphan Drug Act.  By portraying on his Quincy, M.E. television show the plight of people with rare diseases with no treatment, Mr. Klugman focused a spotlight on the need for incentives to encourage the development of therapies for small patient populations.  He did this in partnership with patients and patient advocates who had been unable to gain national attention until he lent his support.

“In 1993, Mr. Klugman told a Chicago Tribune interviewer that his interest in the Quincy TV show stemmed partly from the fact that it allowed him to do important shows on important topics – not just to entertain.  By airing two episodes on the need for treatments for people with rare diseases, he addressed a very important public health challenge.

“Mr. Klugman’s death comes just one week before the start of the 30th anniversary year of the Orphan Drug Act of 1983 and the establishment of NORD to represent rare disease patients and patient organizations.  NORD will always remember him as one of the best friends the rare disease community has ever had.”