Friday, December 21, 2012

Spencer Cox tribute

Cox, who died of AIDS-related causes, died Tuesday. An Atlanta native, he was the remarkable son of two accountants, Jerry and Beverly, and a Theatre Major at Bennington College who discovered that he was HIV+ shortly after moving to New York City.
     He joined ACT UP in 1989 at 20. By 1992 he had helped form TAG, the Treatment Action Group. There he and his colleagues learned the science of AIDS, drug trial protocols, and the govern­ment approval process.
      Cox was seen in the documentary about ACT UP, How to Survive a Plague.
“You can’t understand how incredibly scary it was for him to sit down at the table of the F.D.A. Anti-Viral Advisory Committee as the ‘P.W.A. representative’ and take on the scientific establishment,” David Barr, an original TAG member, wrote in a Facebook post about Mr. Cox. He added: “It took incredible courage and a whole lot of arrogance. You need to understand how lonely it was to sit at those tables, how much you felt like a complete fraud, yet also right and right to be there.”
      In 1995, when antiretroviral drugs known as protease inhibitors began to show promise for treating AIDS patients, Mr. Cox designed a human drug trial for one of the earliest, ritonavir, which was being developed by Abbott Laboratories.
      “Spencer pushed for data-driven decisions,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview on Wednesday. “He wanted the facts and was always very meticulous about getting good data rather than just screaming for getting something approved. It’s a great loss. He was part of a historic group of people.”
      Methamphetamine brought Cox down. Mark Harrington, the executive director of TAG, told the New York Times, "a despairing Mr. Cox had apparently stopped taking his medication" some months ago.

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