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How the Biotechnology Industry Can Combat Doping in Sports

January 17, 2013
Biotechnology companies work every day to solve some of our biggest global challenges – fighting disease, hunger and pollution. Yet, we in the biotech industry are strongly aware that our products can also be misused in the wrong hands.

The same medicines that can be used to help children with devastating genetic deficiencies and growth disorders, or to help a chemotherapy patient combat cancer, can also be abused by healthy athletes to gain an unfair advantage.

Biologic products intended for use as medicines can enhance endurance, minimize recovery time, or promote muscle growth.

The next generation of breakthrough technologies – such as gene or stem cell therapies – offer the promise of treating diseases at the genetic and molecular level. This will be a powerful healing tool – if we can correct the cause of a disease instead of merely treating the symptoms.

Yet, these new, powerful technologies can also be abused.

Doping undermines the integrity and honor of sports and competitions we all cherish, but it also undermines the integrity of our industry’s core mission of serving patients through drug discovery and development.

When biotechnology products are abused for doping, it sets back our progress in gaining acceptance of the science that does so much to protect us from disease, hunger and pollution. We must take great care to ensure that new medical technologies are used for the good of patients and patients alone.

While some currently marketed medicines are at risk of doping, we know that athletes are looking to newer medicines and emerging technologies still in the laboratory to gain an unfair advantage in sport. These unapproved compounds may be alluring to would-be cheaters due to the perception that no test is yet available to help anti-doping authorities detect them.

Doping activity could even lead to unauthorized manufacturing or counterfeiting of unapproved medicines. Or, it could be a motive for the theft or diversion of an investigational product which can delay clinical trials and development programs – harming patients. Doping undermines the integrity of drug discovery, harms patient trust in their medicines, and tarnishes the reputation of companies whose core mission is saving lives.

BIO’s members insist that their medicines must only be used for what they were intended – to save lives and improve the quality of life of patients suffering from serious disease. Our members have continually demonstrated their commitment to the anti-doping cause.

In June 2011, BIO’s health section board of directors was pleased to endorse the WADA-IFPMA collaborative framework to promote voluntary cooperation to identify medical compounds with doping potential, restrict misuse of medicines still in development, improve the flow of relevant information, and facilitate development of detection methods in the context of the fight against doping in sports. We encourage biotechnology companies be vigilant and evaluate their product pipelines for compounds with doping potential.

In addition, BIO applauds the recent release of the 2 Fields, 1 Goal publication, which offers companies practical and realistic advice for identifying compounds with doping potential. The report also suggests how companies can collaborate with WADA to minimize the potential risk.

This type of WADA/industry partnership can mitigate a potential risk before it becomes a problem. We know that companies need to protect key confidential commercial information and trade secrets. The suggested process does this, and does not place additional burdens on the drug development process. In the event of a doping crisis, we encourage companies and WADA to work together to manage and mitigate the issues.

As a trade association, BIO is raising awareness of the problem of doping and encouraging our members to evaluate their pipelines’ for doping potential. We encourage our members to collaborate with WADA to help minimize the potential for product diversion, theft, or abuse.

Together, we can make a difference to maintain the dignity and integrity of sports by reducing the prevalence of doping and continue to develop modern medicines for patients in great need.