In memoriam – Dr Eric Abadie

We were all greatly saddened to learn of the recent passing of our colleague and friend Dr Eric Abadie.

Eric joined the NDA Advisory Board five years ago after a remarkable career as one of the world’s most influential regulators. He brought with him his amazing knowledge and experience, working diligently to support the development of novel and life changing medicines.

There are many ways to honour the memory of a colleague and we had planned to write about Eric’s career at the CHMP and EMA and of course the French Medicines Agency. However, when we reached out to those who have worked most closely with Eric over a long period of time, we were inundated with personal memories. Out of all of these we have picked this story from his long-standing colleague Dr Mira Pavlovic-Ganascia, which we feel encapsulates Eric’s personality. It exemplifies his profound knowledge and a passionate dedication to what mattered so much to him – the safety of European patients:

During one Epiphany celebration at the French Medicines Agency ten years ago, Eric Abadie found a small china figure in his piece of cake. With paper crown on his head, he turned to those next to him: “Being assessor and CHMP Chair is like being Henry Fonda in Sidney Lumet’s ‘Twelve angry men’”.

He explained for those who had not seen the film:

A jury of twelve men is appointed to decide the fate of an 18-year old black male, accused of having stabbed his father to death. If there is any reasonable doubt, they are to return a verdict of not guilty; if found guilty, he will receive the death sentence.

In a preliminary vote, and without any deliberation, 11 jurors vote “guilty” except one, juror 8 (Henry Fonda), who doubts. Juror 8 questions the reliability of the only two witnesses and the prosecution’s claim that the murder weapon is “rare”. Juror 8 argues that he cannot vote “guilty” because there is reasonable doubt.

For Eric, the film raised two unanswerable questions:

  1. Is it possible to make adequate decisions that do not depend on any subjective judgment?
  2. How can randomly chosen jurors, who have only a limited view of the facts, decide if a man is to die or not?

Eric continued:
“Regulatory decision making is all about reasonable doubt – the degree of uncertainty. Uncertainty in the knowledge of benefits, both short and long term, and uncertainty in the knowledge of risks. You should all be Henry Fonda, always be aware of the ‘reasonable doubt’, and never stop until your knowledge and understanding of a new drug’s effects, including any related uncertainties, is as complete as possible.

Thank you, Eric. Thank you for all your contributions, for your integrity, your passion and for setting an example for the rest of us to follow. You will be sorely missed.

Your friends at NDA