The Doctor Vs. The Drugmaker

A dispute over a drug's efficacy turns a partnership into war

Three years ago, when Dr. Nancy F. Olivieri noticed that 7 out of 18 of her longtime patients at "Sick Kids"--Toronto's renowned Hospital for Sick Children--were developing high iron levels in their livers, an alarm went off for her. The patients, suffering from a rare, usually fatal genetic blood ailment called thalassemia, were taking the experimental drug L1 to combat just such buildups. For six years, Olivieri had championed the drug, and now, if it wasn't working--or worse, if it could jeopardize patients' health, as she later came to believe--her efforts were a crushing waste.

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